Spouses and Children of Candidates Can Register and Vote In Constituencies Even if they Don’t Reside

"The law allows for spouses and children of candidates to vote at a constituency where their parents are running from, even if they don’t reside in that constituency,"

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06 February 2019, Apia Samoa. Section 16 of the Electoral Act does allow a candidate’s spouse and children to register and vote at the constituency from where they are running, even if they do not reside in that constituency.

The clarification from Samoa’s Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio was sought after comments made publicly that the Electoral Act would impede this.

Laaulialemalietoa Leauatea Polataivao told the media last month that one of the reasons he voted against the Electoral Amendment Bill was that it did not allow for immediate family living in Apia to register in Savaii.

“This new law means that my children, and my children’s children are no longer able to return to the village of their cultural heritage (faasinomaga)”

“O le tulafono lea ua sau e le toe iai se avanoa e toe alu ai sesi i se faasinomaga i Savaii – o le mea lava e te nofo ai, e te palota ai.”

“That is one of the reasons that upset me, was that our children who live in Apia for employment and education cannot return to their villages of origin,” said Laauli during a press conference last month.

“O le tasi lena mea na ou mafatia ai o le le mafai lea ona iai se aia a fanau ma fanau a fanau e toe foi ai i le faasinomaga, ae na ala na omai e nonofo i Apia e omai e fai atinae, ma galuega, ma aooga ona toe foi lea o le tagata i le mea na sau ai.”

Responding to questions from Samoa Global News, the Electoral Commissioner confirms that a candidate’s immediate family are exempted from the residential rule under section 16(b) and (c) of the Act.

“The law allows for spouses and children of candidates to vote at a constituency where their parents are running from, even if they don’t reside in that constituency,” said Faimalomatumua.

In relation to the argument that the Act and its new electoral boundaries impacts negatively on traditional and cultural ‘faasinomaga’, the Electoral Commissioner says that the ‘faasinomaga’ of a Samoan is not determined by the constituency in which they are registered to vote.

“Elections do not determine the “fa’asinomaga” of a Samoan. As a matter of fact, a Samoan has more than one “fa’asinomaga” which is not determined by where you vote. We all have fa’asinomaga on our father’s side of the family and likewise our mother’s side of the family. Then there’s our fa’asinomaga at our grandparents’ sides of the family and so on. And where we vote does not determine that,” said Faimalo.

“We have people with multiple matai titles from around the country, yet under the Electoral Laws they are only allowed to vote in one constituency using one of those many matai titles. The question then is, does that take away the fa’asinomaga of that person through his other matai titles? The simple answer is, NO. Elections were only introduced here in 1963, whereas our fa’asinomaga, e mai le vavau se ia oo i le fa’avavau.” 

Adds the Electoral Commissioner, “The logic around these changes are simple and based on the views of those living in the villages during the Commission of Inquiry which looked into issues that were prevalent in the 2016 General Elections.

“In essence, the objective view of the law does not violate any fundamental rights of any citizen of this country. It is merely to strengthen the process of electing our political leaders.”

Excerpt of Section 16:

16. Exception to the residential registration rule:
(1) Subject to subsection (2) as an exception to
section 15(1)(b), a person may register as a voter
in a constituency that the voter does not reside
in, if the voter is a:
(a) matai who chooses to register in the
constituency in which the voter is a
matai; or
(b) child of a candidate and the voter
chooses to register in the constituency in
which his or her parent is a candidate; or
(c) spouse of a candidate and the voter
chooses to register in the constituency in
which his or her spouse is a candidate