AMERICAN SAMOA’S FALEOMAVAEGA INTRODUCES REVISED ELECTION BILL TO PROTECT THE VOTING RIGHTS OF ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE MEMBERS

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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA

American Samoa

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE

May 23, 2002

AMERICAN SAMOA’S FALEOMAVAEGA INTRODUCES REVISED ELECTION BILL TO PROTECT THE VOTING RIGHTS OF ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE MEMBERS

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega announced that he introduced a revised election bill to address the concerns of active duty military members whose home of residence is American Samoa.

"This bill includes changes that I believe will satisfy the concerns expressed by our local leaders during our consultations about the matter," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "Since 1980, when the first election for the Congressional Delegate from American Samoa was held, general elections have been held in the first week of November in even-numbered years and run-off elections have been held two weeks later. This practice of holding a run-off election two weeks after a general election is outdated, outmoded, and deprives active duty service members of the opportunity to participate in the Federal election process in American Samoa.

"Prior to and since September 11, 2001," the Congressman said, "it remains impossible for absentee ballots to be prepared and returned during a 2-week period and, as a result, active duty military members continue to be deprived of the right to vote in American Samoa. According to recent Congressional survey results, 85% of those surveyed believe that our active duty members should be allowed to register as absentee voters according to Federal law, and I fully agree.

"It is my understanding that 49 states elect their Representatives to the United States House of Representatives by plurality and I believe it is in our interest and in the interest of active duty service members from American Samoa for American Samoa to do the same," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"I wish to restate that this legislation in no way affects how our local leaders and the American Samoa Government choose to conduct local elections. This legislation simply addresses the issue of Federal elections, which is within the purview of the Congress," the Congressman noted. "This legislation also leaves the issue of primary elections, special elections, and tie votes—even in Federal elections—to the discretion of the American Samoa Legislature. If the Fono chooses to establish primary elections, it may.

"I have forwarded a copy of the bill and my floor statement on the matter to the Governor and Fono members and I am hopeful that we will unite in this effort to protect the voting rights of our active duty service members," the Congressman concluded.

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