Street addresses would make election registration easier

The Office of the Electoral Commissioner said street addresses would make their work easier, especially that of tracking down people who do not vote.

Currently, Samoan people do not have numbered and named addresses, with the exception of parts of Vaitele that have named streets.

Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Matthew Lemisio told the Samoa Observer that if Samoa introduced numbered and named street addresses, their registration and voter information work would become much easier.

“Especially now that we have compulsory voting, to track non-voters down I think it’s very important to have that in place,” he said.

Voting has been compulsory in Samoa since the Electoral Act 2019 was passed through Parliament, repealing the 55-year old Electoral Act 1963.

Section 63 on Compulsory Voting states: “It is the duty of every voter qualifying under this Act registered as a voter, to vote at each election,” and that the Electoral Commissioner must list the names and addresses of anyone who did not vote. Failure to vote, or to provide a reason why one has not voted will cost the voter a $100 penalty fine. 

“When it comes to identifying voters to tell them the status of their registration, and tracking down non-voters, right now that is the biggest challenge for us, identifying non-voters,” the Commissioner said.

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Faimalomatumua believes the technological infrastructure to install street addresses is in Samoa already, so it may not be difficult to do.

Geographic information systems have been used by the Electric Power Corporation and Samoa Bureau of Statistics to carry out their work and therefore could be applied to naming houses.

“If we can streamline the technology already in place, and try and start naming streets and numbering houses that could be a good start, and then we can use the data to improve our work,” he said.

The Commissioner said he can only see positive impacts stemming from addresses, such as in the tourism and government services sectors.

“It will make government service delivery more efficient,” he said.

“Imagine an emergency. You call the ambulance and give a street address, the ambulance will be there in a shorter time, rather than saying my house is next to one of a hundred coconut trees and it might cost a life.”

Faimalomatumua said the street names in Vaitele are good examples of where to start, being named after native trees and birds.

He added there is no reason to lose traditional method of giving directions either, but Samoa needs to move forward with time. It is an investment worth looking into, he said.

“The mango tree will still be there, the yellow house will still be there. No one is taking that away but [addresses are] going to improve us,” said Famalomatumua.

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