Disability advocate applauds pre-polling process
Member of the Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.L.A) and Samoa Blind Persons Association (S.B.P.A) Ari Hazelman has commended the pre-polling process for allowing people with disabilities to vote.
Mr. Hazelman told the Samoa Observer he was happy to be able to cast his vote using pre- polling provisions, applauding the provisions for enabling voters with disabilities.
“Since pre- polling is taking place for four days, I decided to cast my vote on the first day, which was a public holiday and which also enabled a member of my family to assist me to get to [my] nearest polling station,” Mr. Hazelman said.
“I felt that the pre- poling process was a very straightforward one and easy to understand and carry out.”
Mr. Hazelman said the pre- polling process, which has previously been employed in by-elections, but is being rolled out nationally for the first time, has made electoral participation for those with disabilities very convenient.
“It gives people a lot of time to cast their votes throughout the week, if they are still undecided and it also helps people with disabilities to vote much more easily without having to stand or sit through long crowds,” he said.
“If some people with disabilities wish to go together with the rest of the members of their families to cast their votes on the actual election day itself, they are able to still do so but the option of pre- polling is always there for people who may find it difficult to vote on election day.
“Being involved in the electoral process in partnership with the office of the Electoral Commissioner has been very important for all of us living with disabilities in Samoa because we are also citizens of Samoa and we also have the right to vote for our future leaders.
“Nuanua O Le Alofa, the national disability rights advocacy organisation in Samoa and its subgroups have been very much involved in the electoral process.
“[This includes] registering people with disabilities who are first time voters and who are eligible for pre- poling with the help of [N.O.L.A], the translation of the Electoral Act into Braille and the signing of a [Memorandum of Understanding] by the Samoa Blind Persons Association and the Office of the Electoral Commissioner in 2019, as well as an awareness project by the members of the Deaf Association Samoa on the importance of voting.
“Being involved in these different ways will only make us better informed voters and enable us to make our voices heard through the ballot box, regardless of our disabilities and we hope to continue to strengthen our partnership with the Office of the Electoral Commissioner.”
Mr. Hazelman said that this is his first time voting as he had lived overseas for many years but he felt very overjoyed to be able to cast his vote as a Samoan citizen for the first time.
“I love my country and its people and I also feel that Samoa is undergoing new changes and developments and I would like to be a part of that, just like all other Samoan citizens. I did think about who I would vote for and was a bit nervous on the way to the polling station as it was my first time, but when I actually went into the polling booth, I felt calm and cast my vote smoothly,” he said.
“I would sincerely like to encourage all voters with disabilities in Samoa who are eligible for pre-polling to take advantage of this opportunity to make your voices heard as it is very convenient and I would also like to encourage the rest of the voters in Samoa to turn up in full numbers on Friday to cast their votes because it is our right and civic duty to do so as it will enable our voices to be heard through those who we vote into our government and electoral constituencies.”