Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written to Chief Election Officer, High Chief Soliai Fuimaono providing him with a draft amendment that will allow members of the military to use absentee registration in order to vote for local elective offices. Currently, American Samoa election law requires all qualified voters to register in person.
“As I have been saying for many years, we have got to do right for our sons and daughters who are serving in the military,” Faleomavaega said. “The reality is, our sons and daughters in the military are serving in many parts of the world and in most cases are deployed to war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. It is impossible for them to leave their assignments to come to American Samoa in order to register in person as required under our current election law. This has to change immediately and I am hopeful that the rest of our leaders in the Fono and the Administration will agree.”
“At this time, I want to thank High Chief Soliai and our Fono leaders for their sincere willingness to work together with me on this very important matter. With the draft language now in their hands, this will give everyone time to review it so that our Fono could perhaps take immediate action on it when they return to session in next January.”
“I also want to thank former Representative Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr. of Ma’oputasi County for his suggestions on this issue and for his strong advocacy on issues affecting our military service members.”
The full text of Congressman Faleomavaega’s letter dated October 31, 2007 is included below.
Dear Hon. Soliai Fuimaono:
This is in reference to our discussions of the question to allow active duty military person the use of absentee voting registration in the elections of local offices.
This proposed amendment extends the right of active duty military person to use absentee registration procedures in elections for local government offices. Under the current American Samoa code, active duty military person may use absentee registration procedures only for the election of the Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Pursuant to the United States Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 1986, “each state shall permit absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters to use absentee registration procedures and to vote by absentee ballot in general, special, primary, and runoff elections for Federal offices”.
Unfortunately, our local election laws do not indicate whether active duty military person may use absentee registration procedures to register for elections for the offices of Governor/Lieutenant Governor and local House of Representatives. Therefore, an active duty military person has to fulfill standard requirements for voting registration as stipulated under Chapter 2, Section 6.0214 (a) of the American Samoa code. One of these requirements suggests that the person desiring to register has to appear in person to the local election officer. Such requirement ostensibly restricts the ability of the active duty military person to vote in election for local offices.
You will note that the proposed amendment will make it easier for an active duty military person to use absentee registration and vote absentee in the elections for offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and House of Representatives in American Samoa. Conditions for absentee registration require that the active duty military person furnish official documents indicating American Samoa as military “home of record” and “birthplace.” It is also the intent of this amendment that the Chief Election Officer implements all necessary procedures to allow the active duty military person maximum access to voting. This includes designing procedures and instruments that will facilitate maximum voting participation of active duty military person.
Faleomavaega concluded his letter by saying, “I will continue to work with you so that our men and women in the military are accorded maximum voting participation.”