Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on Wednesday September 15, 2004 the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed, by unanimous consent, H.R. 2010, a bill he introduced to allow military and overseas voters to participate in federal elections held in American Samoa. On the evening of Sunday October 10, 2004, the United States Senate also unanimously passed H.R. 2010 and the bill has now been sent to President George W. Bush who is expected to sign Faleomavaega’s bill into law within the next thirty days.
“First and foremost, I want to thank American Samoa’s military men and women who are proudly serving our country at a time when our nation is at war,” the Congressman said. “American Samoa’s sons and daughters have fought and died for the right to vote and, as a Vietnam Veteran, I promised I would do everything I could to make sure our military men and women could fully participate in federal elections held in American Samoa.”
“This is why I introduced H.R. 2010 and why I am thankful that this bill has enjoyed the full support of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. For the record, it should be noted that not one Republican or Democrat in the House or Senate objected to H.R. 2010 and I am thankful to my colleagues for their support.”
“No matter what is said, Congress is not about who is in the Majority. Congress is about seniority, friendship, and influence. It takes both Republicans and Democrats to get the job done and it also takes the support of our local leaders,” Faleomavaega said. “This is why I commend Governor Togiola, the late Senate President Lutu T. Fuimaono, and Speaker McMoore who also stood in support of H.R. 2010.”
“I also commend the people of American Samoa,” the Congressman continued. “Of those surveyed, more than 85% agreed that our active duty military members deserve the right to vote and, as a result of your support and prayers, H.R. 2010 has now passed the House and Senate and has been sent to the President of the United States who is also expected to fully support this bill. Once signed, H.R. 2010 will become effective in 2006.”
“Again, H.R. 2010 is an historic bill. It is a bill that restores the voting rights of our college students and active duty military members and makes clear in no uncertain terms that the American Samoa Legislature is vested with the authority it needs to establish primary elections for the office of the Delegate, if it so chooses.”
“While my opponents continue to call this a plurality bill, nothing could be further from the truth,” Faleomavaega said. “Those who understand this bill know that this bill includes both plurality and majority voting. If, for example, the American Samoa Legislature establishes primary elections, the general election for the office of the Delegate will be by majority. If the American Samoa Legislature fails to establish primary elections, the general election for the office of the Delegate will be by plurality. Either way, our military men and women and college students will have the right to vote for their Representative to the United States House of Representatives.”
“Also, H.R. 2010 in no way affects how the American Samoa Government chooses to elect its local leaders. Furthermore, this matter is not new to the people or the Legislature of American Samoa. The truth is this matter has been before the people and our local leaders for the past five years. Since 1998, I have written to our Governors, past and present. I have written and testified before our local Legislature and I have brought this matter to the attention of our people through press releases, newsletters, radio and tv programs. In 2001, I also conducted a Congressional survey and 85% of those surveyed agreed that American Samoa’s active duty service members should be afforded the same rights and privileges as every other American serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
“Having made every change requested of me by our local leaders and after years of good-faith efforts on my part, I am pleased that once the President signs H.R. 2010 into law our military men and women and college students will have the right to vote in federal elections held in American Samoa and will no longer be disenfranchised from the process as a result of Public Law 95-556 which was passed on October 31, 1978,” Faleomavaega said.
“Federal, or PL 95-556, requires a runoff election to be held only 14 days after the general election. As Governor Togiola said, this creates ‘a situation where it is virtually impossible for American Samoa’s Election Office to send out absentee ballots to the men and women in the military and expect to receive them back in time for those votes to be counted in a run-off election.’” In other words, this is an injustice that has been made worse by the current conflict in the Middle East where many American Samoans are now serving and fighting for democracy.”
“H.R. 2010 corrects the injustice and, for this reason, I am thankful that the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, Governor Togiola, the late Senate President Fuimaono, Speaker McMoore, and 85% of those surveyed in American Samoa agreed with me that some measure should be put in place to assure that the votes of our military men and women are counted in federal elections held in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“I am also thankful that Senator Akaka, a senior Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, spoke out in support of H.R. 2010 and urged the Senate to ‘act quickly to pass this bill so that American Samoa’s military men and women will have the opportunity to vote – to help select their representative to the U.S. House of Representatives.’
“Simply put, H.R. 2010 is the right thing to do and, to alleviate any concerns that I will personally benefit from this legislation, I would like to reiterate that I offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute for purposes of changing the effective date of this bill from January 2004 to January 2006. This amendment was unanimously supported at mark-up by the House Resources Committee and, as such, any change in law will not go into effect until the 2006 election cycle.”
“At this time, I thank Chairman Pete Domenici and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for supporting H.R. 2010. I also thank our Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush, who I am confident will soon sign H.R. 2010 into law. Above all, I thank our military men and women from American Samoa who are fighting for democracy so that you and I and future generations may live in peace. As a Vietnam veteran, I wish them the very best and, as always, I pray for their safe return,” the Congressman concluded.