|November 19, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THE VOTING RIGHTS OF ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY MEMBERS|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced today that he is introducing federal legislation to protect the
voting rights of active duty military members whose home of residence is
“Our active duty service men and women pay more than a million dollars a year in income taxes to ASG,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Yet they are denied the right to vote in local elections if they do not register in person.”
“However, federal law is quite clear on this matter. Federal law requires that American Samoa, like all other states and territories, accept absentee registration and absentee requests for ballots from these voters for federal elections. This is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973ff, et seq., which supersedes local law,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“In terms of local elections, ASG can determine its own course. But in the case of federal elections, including the office of the Delegate, American Samoa’s laws must comply with federal election law,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Federal law recognizes that whether a service member is stationed in the United States or overseas, there is a considerable cost involved for a service member, and often a spouse, to travel to his/her home of residence simply to register to vote. Federal law also recognizes that active duty service members have little to say about where they are stationed,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Our soldiers and sailors are routinely ordered to duty as far away as Bosnia and South Asia. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, many of our service members, including our Reserve components, may also be ordered to duty in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and other areas that may place them in harm’s ways. Yet, wherever they are sent, and whatever dangers they may encounter, our service members are entitled to vote.”
“Because our active duty service men and women have brought these matters to my attention and have asked me to ensure that their rights are protected in this time of national crisis, I am introducing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure that they are afforded a fair opportunity to vote in American Samoa as required by federal law. Our military men and women place their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. The least we can do is ensure that their fundamental right to vote is also protected,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I have discussed these matters with the Governor and I have also brought the matter to the attention of our local legislators. I am hopeful that they will also be supportive of these efforts to ensure that our military members are treated fairly and equitably,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“The fact of the matter is voting is one of our most fundamental rights. Now more than ever, when our country is at war, and our nation is in crisis, we should make every effort to afford our service members and their dependents the right to vote.”
“Under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. 1973ff-1, Federal law states that:
Each State shall –
(1) permit absent uniformed services
voters and overseas voters to use
(3) permit overseas voters to use
Federal write-in absentee ballots…in general
“To ensure that American Samoa’s election laws comply with Federal law, I have suggested that a division should be created within our local election office to deal specifically with absentee ballot and registration procedures,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I also believe that we need to reconsider matters pertaining to run-off elections.”
“Under local law, it is nearly impossible for absentee voters to cast votes in a run-off election because local law mandates the run-off election to be held two weeks after the general election. This local mandate discriminates against active service members and other absentee voters,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “To address this problem in terms of Federal elections, I believe the best solution is to conduct a non-partisan primary election during an election year, only in the event that there are three or more candidates running for Congress.”
“Although concern has been expressed that there will be an extra expense associated with holding primary elections, I believe the advantages of a primary system far outweigh this limited expense. Most importantly, primary elections in the summer followed by general elections in the fall afford all of our qualified voters an equal opportunity to cast their ballots.”
“It has also been suggested that rather than hold primary elections, the date of the run-off elections could be delayed five to six weeks after the general election. This would carry the election cycle past the Thanksgiving holidays and would only work to the detriment of the residents of our Territory. This can be avoided by establishing primary elections and ensuring that there are final outcomes in our general elections,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I am hopeful that these election reforms will be in place by 2003 so that our active duty service members can vote by absentee ballot in our 2004 elections. I am also hopeful that the proposed bill will remedy the serious problems associated with our current election system and will ensure that our active duty service members are afforded the same rights and privileges as every other American serving in the U.S. Armed Services,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
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