|June 10, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA REQUESTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH FONO REGARDING VOTING BILL FOR AMERICAN SAMOA’S SOLDIERS|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced today that he has requested a meeting with the Fono to discuss
voting rights for American Samoa’s soldiers.
“As a follow-up to my letter to the Governor and the Fono dated May 7, 2003 regarding federal elections in American Samoa, I have written to request an opportunity to once again testify before the Fono and to meet with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to discuss this important matter,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “As a matter of record, I also provided the Fono with another copy of my letter to the late Governor Sunia dated July 23, 2002 which offers a history of my involvement with this issue.”
“On May 7, 2003, I also introduced another bill to protect the voting rights of members of the Armed Services in elections for the Delegate representing American Samoa in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 2010, which I have forwarded to the Fono and the Samoa News, will establish voting by plurality for the office of the Delegate until such time as the American Samoa Legislature provides for primary elections and majority voting if so desired. In other words, at any time, the Fono may decide to provide for primary elections hopefully eight weeks prior to the general election,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“While I have tirelessly worked to make sure that American Samoa’s active duty service members have the same rights and privileges as any other soldier serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, I am saddened that my critics have questioned my integrity by suggesting that I have introduced this legislation to gain political advantage. Therefore, upon successful passage of this bill, I have informed the Fono that I am willing to forego any votes from our active duty service members in the 2004 elections. Simply put, this bill is more important to me than my own political career and I am willing to do whatever it takes to see that this bill passes Congress, hopefully with the support of our local leaders.”
“As a Vietnam veteran, I firmly believe that American Samoa’s sons and daughters should have the right to vote and participate fully in federal elections. Our men and women have fought and died for the right to vote and, whatever differences there may be, I believe we must be united in protecting the voting rights of every resident of American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“To be clear, Congress established our federal election laws some thirty years ago, and Congress 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 and thirty years ago 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.”
“Thirty years ago, Congress could not foresee that American Samoa’s sons and daughters would serve in the military in record numbers,” the Congressman continued. “Neither could Congress foresee that in 1986 the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) would become law and 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.”
“In good-faith, Congress simply enacted a law that no longer meets our needs and for years I have brought this matter to the attention of our local leaders. I have also brought this matter to the attention of our people through press releases, newsletters, radio and tv programs. Two years ago, 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.”
“Now that I have addressed the concerns of our local leaders by introducing a bill which provides for both plurality and majority voting, I am hopeful that we will be able to work together to move this legislation forward. American Samoa’s warriors deserve our support and the time has come for us to restore their voting rights,” the Congressman concluded.
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