Prepolling a dream come true for disability advocates

The General-Manager of Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.L.A) has said that having pre-polling available for the first time in the days leading up to the recent national election was a dream come true.

The General-Manager of N.O.L.A, Mataafa Faatino Utumapu said pre-polling had changed the process of voting for people with a disability. 

“The [pre polling] was one of our recommendations to the parliamentary committee who reviewed the outcome of the 2016 election. Hence having it available is indeed a dream come true,” Mataafa said.

She has also consulted with some of the members of Samoa’s community of people with a disability and who participated in pre-polling.

“They enjoyed the process despite that some felt that the process should allow persons with disabilities who live in [urban] areas to cast their votes not in their constituencies,” she said.

She said this inability to vote remotrely led the voters to incur transport costs. 

“Some stated that while the pre-polling was a great idea, as the number of people with disabilities is very small in number, it was easier to identify who they voted to hence they decided to vote at the general election day,” she said.

By August 2020, close to 150 people living with disabilities had registered to vote in the upcoming 2021 General Election. A further 350 were eligible to register to vote.

In the months leading up to the election, the Samoa Blind Persons Association hosted a voter awareness training programme for people with a disability.

The aim of the awareness training was for people with disabilities to understand the importance of their vote and how to exercise it during elections.

A member of N.O.L.A and the S.B.P.A, Ari Hazelman, commended the pre-polling process earlier this month for facilitating the democratic rights of people with a disability. 

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