|September 6, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA HOPES TO MEET WITH FONO AND GOVERNOR ON ELECTION BILL|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced today that the House Resources Committee is tentatively scheduling
a hearing for a number of proposed bills now pending before the Committee.
“H.R. 4838, a bill I introduced to protect the voting rights of our men and women serving in the military, is among the bills being considered for the hearing,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Although not yet confirmed, the hearing may be scheduled for September 25, 2002.”
“In a letter dated September 5, 2002, I informed Governor Sunia, President Lutu, Speaker McMoore, and our Fono members that I will be in American Samoa during the week of September 9, 2002. During this time and as a follow-up to my July 23, 2002 letter regarding H.R. 4838, I have also informed our local leaders that I will be available to discuss any provisions of the bill and hopefully resolve whatever differences there may be on the proposed legislation.”
“This legislation has the full support of Congressman James Hansen (R-UT), Chairman of the House Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee. H.R. 4838 enjoys bi-partisan support because both Republicans and Democrats agree that American Samoa’s sons and daughters should be granted the same rights and privileges as every other man or woman serving in the U.S. Armed Services,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“As I stated in my July 23, 2002 letter, H.R. 4838 in no way affects the election of our local leaders. H.R. 4838 simply amends federal law to ensure that our men and women in the military can fully participate in federal elections held in American Samoa,” the Congressman said. “As I have also stated, only Congress can amend federal law.”
“This is not a complicated matter. Congress established our federal election laws some thirty years ago, and only Congress can change our federal election laws. To be clear, Congress patterned American Samoa’s federal election laws after those of the Virgin Islands and Guam and established this law before we even had a Delegate in Congress. The law states that a runoff election must be held two weeks after the general election if a candidate does not receive a majority of the votes.”
“In other words, it is federal law, not local law, which only provides two weeks between general and runoff elections. Furthermore, our people had no voice in determining whether two weeks between a general and a runoff election was enough time to ensure that our voters could fully participate in the federal election process,” Faleomavaega said. “Congress simply enacted a law some thirty years ago and assumed it would meet our needs.”
“Some thirty years ago, Congress could not foresee that in 1986 the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) would become law. Congress could not foresee that the UOCAVA would permit active duty service members to vote by absentee ballot. Congress also did not consider that limited air and mail service between the mainland and American Samoa would make it nearly impossible for our sons and daughters to vote by absentee ballot in the case of runoff elections,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“In good-faith, Congress simply enacted a law that no longer meets our needs. I have brought this matter to the attention of our local leaders for a number of years. I have also brought this matter to the attention of our people through press releases, newsletters, radio and tv programs. Last year, I even conducted a survey in the Territory to see where our people stand on this issue. Of those surveyed, more than 85% agree that our service members should be afforded the same rights and privileges as every other American serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“While America is engaged in a war against terrorism, I am pleased that H.R. 4838 has the support of both Republicans and Democrats. I am also once again hopeful that during my visit to the Territory I will be given an opportunity to meet with the Governor and the Fono, at their convenience, to discuss the provisions of my bill and resolve any concerns they may have. Whatever differences there may be, I believe we must be united in protecting the voting rights of every resident of American Samoa, whether home or abroad,” the Congressman concluded.
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