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Joint resolution introduced giving the right to vote to non-U.S. Nationals

Faipule have vigorously opposed similar resolutions throughout the years

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On July 11, 2023, the second day of business for the House of Representatives, Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui Jr of District-1, Ofu and Olosega introduced a joint resolution that seeks to amend the Revised Constitution of American Samoa to qualify non-US Nationals as electors.

 The resolution would amend Article II, Section 7: Qualifications of electors, of the Revised Constitution of American Samoa, which in definition states “that every person of the age of 18 years or upwards who is a United States national and who has live in American Samoa for a total of at least two years and has been a bona fide resident of the election district where he offers to vote for at least one year next preceding the election and who meets such registration requirements as may be prescribed by law shall be deemed a qualified elector at such election,” and adds “after attaining the age of 25, has legally lived for no less than 25 consecutive years in American Samoa, and is a bona-fide resident of the election district where he offers to vote for at least two years from the next preceding election and meets such registration requirements as may be prescribed by law.”

The introduction pointed out that non-U.S. nationals have educated our children, treated our sick, built our homes, and have even made our food, on top of paying taxes and contributing to the growth of almost every facet of American Samoa. 

 “And that given these great contributions by foreign-born residents, it is extremely inequitable that they are not able to select its representatives to public office, and that the Territory should provide to non-U.S. national residents [the right] to cast a vote in local election, it is fair and prudent to extend this right to those who have given so much to the Territory,” the introduction reads. 

The joint resolution concluded by stating that the Governor respectfully requested to submit the amendments proposed by this joint resolution to the voters in the next general election in November 2024 and that the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives is directed to transmit copies of this resolution to the Governor of American Samoa and Honorable Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Department of the Interior. 

This is not the first time that such a measure has been introduced in the Fono. The first attempt was made by Governor Tauese Sunia in his first term as Governor more than 20 years ago. It was never reported out of Committee.

More recently in 2022 Vice-Speaker Fetu, along with Faipule Vailoata Eteuati Amituana’i and Lavea Fatulegaee Palepoi Mauga sponsored a similar measure.

During a hearing on the resolution Chief Election Commissioner, Dr Lealofi Uiagalelei supported the intention of the resolution, but many faipule strongly opposed the idea pointing out that they have to safeguard their birthrights and the right to vote is a sacred one.

They said they also have to think of the future of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They said long-time residents who are not born here are represented by their local born children at the polls, and they are receiving benefits from the local and federal government.

This resolution also went nowhere.