Cook Island Elections See Only 73 % Voter

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Inaccurate rolls and not voter apathy could be to blame

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 12, 2014) – Voter turnout in this week’s General Elections appears to be the lowest in recent memory, but one victorious candidate says the numbers may be misleading.

Based on preliminary figures provided by the Chief Electoral Office, a mere 73.3 per cent of voters made their way to the polling station, a pale turnout compared to showings in the previous four elections.

The number – which includes projected figures for postal, advance, and declaratory votes – is part of a decreasing trend, continuing from 2010’s turnout which was recorded at 78 per cent.

Voter turnout in prior elections was recorded as follows: 2006 – 86.7 per cent; 2004 – 85.7 per cent; 1999 – 92.6 per cent.

Incumbent Member of Parliament-elect Selina Napa, who easily held on to her seat in Titikaveka on Wednesday night, said numbers on the rolls compiled by the Chief Electoral Office are inaccurate.

"I would say the registered numbers from the rolls wouldn’t add up," said Napa.

"In Titikaveka, on our roll we have 910 registered voters. But from that roll, people have moved and passed away, but their names are still appearing on that roll," she said. "Almost 200 of the 910 people on the roll don’t exist in this village."

If this apparent 20 per cent difference was a consistent trend across all 24 constituencies, then the total 10,540 roll figure supplied on election day could drop to 8432, making the voting turnout 84.5 per cent, which is more in line with past elections.

Napa opted not to point the blame for the discrepancies, saying the short time frame afforded to electoral officials and campaigners due to the snap election may have played a role.

"It’s very hard to update the roll when you’re given such little time with the calling of the election. Also, the time for objections and deletions was tight," she said.

"You won’t really know how many people are in the village unless you go knocking on doors. I would say the process needs to be reviewed."

She said much of the work in the lead up to the vote in updating the rolls was left to candidates and campaigners.

To ensure accuracy, she said a specific team should be appointed by government for the role of updating the rolls.

"I’m not picking on anyone, but the process needs to be looked at."

Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua agreed with Napa, saying she wasn’t surprised to hear that many names should not be appearing on the rolls.

She said responsibility for updating the rolls – which should be maintained on an annual basis – rests with the Ministry of Justice, as set out in the nation’s Electoral Act, however, people have to also let officials know about changes in their personal details.

"The onus is on the electors themselves to come forward and change their details, such as if they have moved."

Meanwhile, defeated Demo veteran Norman George has told CINews he will not be going down without a fight and he will be lodging a court challenge over his loss to CIP’s Rose Brown in Atiu on election night by 42-61.

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