Story & Photos by Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA: Security at the Office of the Electoral Commissioner has been pushed to the limit to control a last minute rush of hundreds of voters to register before registration close this Friday.
As Talamua photos show the winding queue from the ground floor of the SNPF Plaza to the Electoral Commissioners’ Office on the first floor.
But late registration has been triggered by the announcement of a $2,000 talā penalty for eligible voters who may not register.
Registration went late into the night and one security guards humorously put it, “Ua le fefe i le Atua ae ua fefe i le sala tupe e $2000.”
“As far as the law is concerned, registration should be closed by tomorrow. After tomorrow, the law will take over and whoever has not been registered will be fined $2,000 tala.”
The Electoral Commissioner Faimalōmatumua Mathew Lemisio this morning called for patience, saying it is not his Offices’ fault but the public leaving things to the last minute.
He said his Office had conducted a door to door service, visited schools, villages and work places to register all eligible voters 21 years up from 2016, but it seems people chose at the last minute to come in. There had also been a lot of media promotion and awareness for voters to register early.
“Our target was 11,500 but as of Sunday last week, we have reached over 12,000,” he told the media.
From the door to door service, the team registered people from 80 to 90 years old which Faimalōmatua said is good that these people are interested in exercising their right to choose the Government of the day come election next year.
Based on the numbers waiting outside the Office to be registered or transferred, Faimalōmatumua is not giving an extension.
“As far as the law is concerned, registration should be closed by tomorrow,” he emphasized.
After tomorrow, the law will take over and whoever has not been registered will be fined $2,000 tala.
“That is the last thing we want to do, but it is the law,” said Faimalōmatumua,
Removing names of deceased from rolls still a challenge
Despite having the authority to remove the names of deceased voters from the electoral rolls, Faimalōmatumua said it is still a challenge. as they are not informed of someone’s passing.
“It’s a challenge because, before we did not have the authority to automatically remove a name from the rolls, but under the new law, we have the authority to do that. But I believe there are a lot of deceased people that we are not aware of,” he said.
He said the office has resorted to funeral public notices on television, newspapers, and social media to double check before removing names from the rolls.
The registration of candidates for the 2012 general elections start in Savaii next Tuesday then the registration of the Upolu candidates the following week.
Based on the Electoral Office’s Strategic Plan from 2016, Faimalōmatumua said 85% of the plan has been completed and the final phase is the general election in April 2021.