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Preparations finalized for American Samoa’s Election Day 2020

Polling station layout for upcoming 2020 General Election.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Social-distancing — complying with restrictions under the governor’s COVID-19 declaration — will be enforced at the polling stations during the Nov. 3, 2020 general election, according to Election Office deputy director Fiti Tavai, during last week’s cabinet meeting at the American Samoa Community College multi-purpose center.

Tavai presented the cabinet members with the operations program for the 2020 election. He said the Election 2020 calendar of events is very busy for October, with the deadline to register to vote set at 4:30pm on Oct. 5th.

As of Sept. 22nd, total voter register stands at 15, 868 and Chief Election Office Dr. Lealofi Uiagalelei  urged those who qualify to vote to register to vote in November.

According to Tavali, on Oct. 7th, the final voter roll for the 2020 election would be released to all candidates. Between Oct. 9th to Nov 2nd, local absentee voting for the disabled will take place and includes those who are homebound due to illness and unable to go to the polls on Election Day.

According to Tavai’s presentation, Oct. 16th is set for training of team leaders assigned to the 40 designated polling stations on Election Day. The polling stations will be made official on Oct. 22nd, with the list released to the media.

Tavai said that Oct. 19 is the last day to request absentee ballots. Election Office has also put on its calendar dates for training of poll workers at the designated polling stations.

Candidates running for public office are reminded that Oct. 23rd is when they are to file their preliminary campaign spending reports with the Campaign Spending Commission. And candidates have until Oct. 26 to firm up the list of their poll watchers, who are the only ones the Election Office will allow to sit inside the polling stations.

The Election Office has set Oct. 27th for the “open meeting” of all Swains Island residents to select their delegate to the local House of Representatives. Uiagalelei is expected to issue the official announcement of the meeting early next month, and it will include the venue.

Between Oct 28th and Oct. 30th poll workers will be sworn in and also cast their ballots. The Election Office will be burning the midnight oil between Oct. 31st (Saturday) through Monday, Nov. 2nd, sorting these ballots into the ballot boxes that will then be delivered to polling stations, that will be open on election day, Nov. 3rd, from 6a.m. to 6p.m.

The Election Office will, once again, work with KVZK-TV in broadcasting voting results. Any challenge to the outcome of the general election results closes at 4:30 p.m on Nov 10th — which is 7-days after the general election, in accordance with local law.

“If there is no challenge, results will be certified and made official by the chief election officer,” said Tavai, who noted that Nov. 23rd is when candidates — whether you win or not — must file the final campaign spending report with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Tavai acknowledged these challenging times with the COVID-19 pandemic; and therefore social distancing will be enforced at all polling stations on election day. For example, there will be limited seating at polling stations with chairs — for electors to wait their turn to cast their ballots — set up at 6 feet apart. Social distancing will also be enforced for poll watchers.

Furthermore, hand sanitizer and face masks will be provided to voters, as well as cleaning and sanitizing voting booths, surrounding areas, and bathrooms.

The Election Office expects the only time polling stations will be busy with electors standing in line to cast their ballots is during the morning hours before work starts; lunch time in the afternoon; and later when people get out of work.

The Election Office plans to meet next month with the Samoan Affairs Office as village mayors will be asked for their assistance at polling stations on Election Day. Police will assist on Election Day with security and other issues.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga urged police and pulenu’u to provide the needed support to the Election Office to ensure a safe and peaceful election 2020.

See Samoa News edition yesterday on the overseas absentee ballot update.