Absentee ballot count gives a clue as to how many are stranded overseas
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The more than 600 absentee ballots cast by American Samoa voters, under the COVID-19 absentee provision, provide some solid data on the number of American Samoans stranded off island due to border closure — but of course it does not include a count on the local legal residents, also stranded across the US.
There have been estimates of about 500 and 600 stranded local residents, but there’s been no solid numbers, as those wanting to return home are registering with the American Samoa Repatriation registry portal, overseen by the local Attorney General’s Office.
The local and outside or overseas absentee ballot data provided by the Election Office shows that as of Nov. 3rd, overall total absentee ballots cast stand at 1,601.
Total for the overseas absentee ballot, as of Nov. 3rd, stands at 892 — with 685 cast by those stranded off island or COVID-19 absentee; 179 under the military category, 21 from American Samoa students attending college off island, 6 from ASG employees working in the US and one from a federal employee, who is a local registered voter, but working in the US.
This is the highest number of overseas absentee ballots cast in recent elections, and this is attributed to the COVID-19 absentee category, according to long time political observers, who note that the COVID-19 absentee ballot count provides “solid information on stranded residents.”
Also as of Nov. 3rd, a total of 709 ballots were cast for local absentee with 286 ballots from voters with a disability, 142 ballots for those who travelled off island and won’t be on island on Election Day; 259 for poll workers/ officials and 22 for “others” — who are individuals or detainees at the Territorial Correctional Facility with pending cases in court.
The local and oversees absentee ballots were placed in the ballot boxes or containers and delivered to each polling station yesterday morning, accompanied by poll workers and team leaders. The absentees were placed in a clearly-marked large plastic envelope, along with a separate one with blank ballots.
At the polling stations, poll leaders from the election office, opened the container and removed the two envelopes in front of poll watchers representing the candidates. The container was then lifted to show that it was empty before is was sealed again, with duck-tape except for the slot to put ballots inside after an elector casts his or her ballot.
At the polling station at Ili’ili village, the team leader told poll watchers that they have been told by the Election Office that the Post Office was to be checked again yesterday for any last minute absentee ballots in the mail.
Any last minute absentees from the Post Office would then be delivered to the polling station, after being verified by the Election office.