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Bill allowing permanent residents to register to vote introduced

Senators in session
Caveats include residency and tax requirements

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two senators from Manu’a, Malaepule Saite Moliga and Ma’o Fa’auma S. Gogo are sponsors of a Senate bill, which seeks to amend local law, allowing permanent residents of American Samoa to vote in elections.

The bill, introduced during yesterday’s Senate session, seeks to amend the “Application to register” provision of local election law, by adding a new provision pertaining to permanent residents voting in elections.

The proposed new provision states: “the person may be a permanent resident of American Samoa who holds a valid permanent resident immigration identification card pursuant to [local law] 41.0403, must live in American Samoa for 30 years consistently and pay taxes for 20 consecutive years.”

Additionally, “the individual shall provide proof to the Election Office.”

According to the bill’s preamble, American Samoa’s permanent residents “live under and abide by the same laws that are set forth by the Legislature for the entire territory, however, they have little to no power over selecting the representatives that makes those laws.”

Furthermore, permanent residents who have lived in the territory for 30 consecutive years and have paid local taxes for 20 years “have proven that they are loyal to our territory and should be afforded this most basic right” to vote.

It also says that allowing permanent residents to vote would benefit society as a whole by promoting inclusion among all the residents of the territory.

“Allowing them to vote will also encourage continued allegiance to our territory and to the United States,” the preamble noted.

Samoa News points out that this is not the first time that such legislation have been introduced in the Fono over the past years and none has been successful.

In previous legislations, there’s support for such a move for long-time permanent residents, especially — as they argued — “we have lived here for many years and pay taxes to the government” as well as continue to contribute to the welfare of American Samoa.

No mention is made in the legislation as to whether or not the voting by permanent residents would be limited to local House races.