It will be a crime not to vote, says Minister


Voters queuing up to cast their votes on election day

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 26 MARCH 2018: It will be a crime not to vote in future elections.

The Minister for the Electoral Commission, Fa’aolesā Katopau Ainu’u today spoke in parliament on the amendment to the Electoral Bill 2018 that makes it compulsory to vote.

“It will be the duty of every registered voter to vote on the day of the general election because if they don’t, it means they have committed a crime,” said Fa’aolesā.

The amendment also seeks to repeal the Electoral Commission Act 1963.

The Bill addresses some of the provisions such as the registration of political parties, pre-polling, the removal of special polling booths, the transfer of voters and candidates, electoral petitions, eligibility of voters and corrupt practises during elections.

Fa’aolesā  said anyone who has reached 21 years old, a citizen of Samoa and has already registered  is eligible to vote in the district he resides or where he  holds a matai  title.

Only the candidate, his wife and children can register or transfer their vote to the district where the candidate is running from, if the candidate is not residing at this district.

But if the wife and children hold matai titles from a different village, then they cannot register or vote at the district where the candidate or husband is running from. However, other members of the candidates’ family residing in the district the candidate intends to represent, can register and vote from.

The Bill also seeks a time frame of 10 years allowed for transferring of voters, and can only be allowed another transfer after ten years.  Candidates, spouses and children are exempt from this new time frame.

Pre-polling will be available four days before the general election and allowed to those with special needs, pensioners and those traveling from overseas and those doing central services on the day of the general election.

All political parties must pay a fee of $3,000 and an additional fee of $1,000.

There is also a provision to remove special polling booths except a booth for those working on the day of the general election.

Electronic voting will also be used to Samoans working in overseas embassies, Samoan scholars studying overseas and the seasonal workers.

The Bill passed its second reading and is now before the Parliamentary Select Committee to report back to the House before the third reading.

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