DUAL CITIZENSHIP FORCES ELECTION CHOICE IN SAMOAS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, March 29) – American Samoa Deputy Election Officer Filiva'a Mageo reminds local voters who hold dual citizenship with Samoa that if they vote in Samoa's upcoming elections, they will forfeit their right to vote in American Samoa's election this year.

Mageo explained that under local laws, a voter cannot vote in two jurisdictions. ASCA [American Samoa Code Annotated] 6.0212 states that a person loses his/her residence in the territory (to vote), if he/she "votes in election held elsewhere by absentee ballot or in person."

"If you vote in Samoa, you cannot vote here," said Mageo. "This is especially important for individuals who hold dual citizenship with Samoa."

Mageo said there have been past cases where the Election Office found individuals who voted during local elections and then in Samoa. "No one has been charged on this violation but its considered voting fraud," said Mageo.

"We remind the public that if you vote in Samoa this year, you cannot vote in our November general election," he added. "We have to comply with our local laws."

Voters in Samoa go to the polls on March 31 to elect 49 members of Parliament. Forty-seven seats are allocated for constituencies wherein only matai - or chiefs - are candidates while two (2) are reserved for individual voters.

According to media reports from Apia, a total of 210 candidates will be competing this election year, which includes 18 women candidates.

Sometime after the Samoa election, staff from the local Election Office will travel to Apia to check with the Samoa election officials whether any of the names of those who cast ballots there match any names on the local voter registration list here.

Mageo said whoever is discovered to have voted in Samoa will have their name purged from the local official roll of the voters' registration and the individual will have to re-register in order to vote in the next general election.

When the voter registration in Samoa closed last month, 79,118 people registered compared to the 92,000 during the 2001 election. Sources in Apia believe the numbers dropped because of the new regulations requiring voters to be finger printed and to have a voter ID card (with photo).

This is part of the government's effort to prevent registration fraud in 2001, where some people registered more than once under different names.

Meanwhile, Mageo said local registration for the November election is ongoing and this is for new voters - those who are changing districts to vote and those who changed their names (i.e., got married).

American Samoa voters will cast ballots this year for the congressional and local House races.

March 30, 2006

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com

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