Unregistered voter convicted and fined

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A 26-year-old man from the village of Aufaga, Lepa, has been convicted and fined $200 by District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papalii.

The decision was handed down yesterday.

Viliamu Iosefatu is one of many young citizens who failed to register to become a voter as required by the Electoral Act.

Section 18B of the Electoral Act requires all citizens of Samoa turning 21 years old to register as a voter within one month after turning 21. 

Failure to do so in the given time is an offence and those convicted are liable to a fine of $2,000 and $4,000 if after the first conviction and the citizen still fails to register.

Leading up to the 2016 General Elections, the Office of the Electoral Commissioner revealed that more than 10,000 Samoa citizens born between 1990 and 1995 had yet to register.

The number was taken from the birth certificates data attained from the Samoa Bureau of Statistics. 

Iosefatu is the second person convicted under Section 18B of the Electoral Act since the O.E.C beefed up its efforts to implement the offences provisions of the Act.

“Our office is now processing charges for all those names we’ve already advertised publically,” Assistant Electoral Commissioner, Francis Ainu’u said.

“We feel that we’ve exhausted all the avenues available to us to take the registration services out to the country.

“Unfortunately, leading up to the last elections, there’s still a high number of people, namely the young ones who are not taking the requirement of the law seriously. So we’re left with little option but to implement what the Electoral Act obligated this office to do.”

Mr. Ainu’u said the O.E.C and the Ministry of Police are finalising charges for citizens who haven’t registered.

“We’ll be starting to serve them to defendants sooner than later.

“We’ve also identified and advertised a number of public servants who haven’t registered. So we have also sent those names to Police and charges are now being processed.” 

As for Iosefatu, he told the Court that the reason he didn’t register was because he was busy.

But Judge Alalatoa did not buy this.

“The Office of the Electoral Commissioner had carried out a huge amount of work over the years to try and register all citizens eligible to vote,” Judge Alalatoa said.

Asked if he had known that the law required him to register, Iosefatu said he knew that he was supposed to register.

“You should because we all knew about the awareness programmes conducted by the Office on TV, radio and media,” Judge Alalatoa continued. “On top of that, the Office also went around the country a number of times yet you didn’t use that opportunity to register.”

She then convicted Iosefatu and fined him $200 to be paid to O.E.C by 4pm yesterday. Failure to do so will result to imprisonment of three months.

Judge Alalatoa reminded Iosefatu that voting is important in any democratic country. 

“Your vote allows you to elect leaders of your preference that will represent your views in Parliament.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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