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Uiagalelei denies Tuaolo’s request to void Constitutional referendum vote

Chief Election Officer Uiagalelei Lealofi
“ …certifying results of the vote is merely a ministerial declaration,” he says

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Chief Election Officer has denied the request by Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, chairman of the Constitutional Convention to “null and void” the results on the Constitutional amendments.

The request came prior to Chief Election Officer Uiagalelei Lealofi confirming the Midterm Election results.

Uiagalelei’s response was issued on November 15, 2022 a day after Tuaolo wrote to him.

“I am in receipt of your letter requesting that I do not certify results of the votes on the referendums.

“As you are well aware, certifying results of the vote is merely a ministerial declaration by the Chief Election Officer at 4:30P.M on the seventh day, following the closure of the polls, that the numbers reported to the public were true and correct.

“Needless to mention, the Chief Election Officers have been certifying results of past general, special, and run-off elections. It’s an implication the Chief Election Officer firmly believed upon verification by his office that the results were truly supported by facts,” said Uiagalelei.

Tuaolo in his request letter noted that not soon after the election results were finalized, he contacted him.

“I called and brought to your attention the fact that less than 50% of the total electorate for American Samoa cast their votes and overwhelmingly voted “No” on the proposed referendums for the American Samoan Constitution.”

The Senate President pointed out “that much effort and resources were expended by our Territory in drafting of these revisions, holding a Constitutional Convention of delegates that thoroughly represented American Samoa, just to be voted down by about 40% of voters.

 “The importance of the proposed document to the advancement and improvement of American Samoa's political future far outweighs the will of the minority who voted it down.”

Tuaolo further noted that as Chief Election Officer, Uiagalelei is empowered to certify election results for American Samoa.

 “You may do so for the midterm election for delegates and representatives, when you've considered any challenges and problems.

“But I am requesting that you do not certify the results of the votes on the referendums.

“You can declare the vote ‘null and void’ because the votes fail to truly dictate the will of all of our people and refer this matter to be reintroduced in the 2024 General Election when a majority of the roughly 15 thousand registered voters can truly decide on this very important matter,” Tuaolo stated.

But Chief Election Officer Uiagalelei rejected the appeal by Tuaolo.

“With all due respect, therefore, I cannot declare the vote, null and void as you requested.

“Exercising their right to vote is strong Indication of the voter’s belief in, and commitment to support our democratic ideal and our election territorial laws, notwithstanding they represent 40% of registered voters.

 “I truly hope to continue this dialogue with our office on important issues of this magnitude as we move along our political development,” said the Chief Election Officer.

As reported earlier the three constitutional amendments cited by Tuaolo pertains to the development of local government and decreasing the authority of the Secretary of Interior in certain territorial issues.

They are:

1. The Governor shall appoint the Chief Justice and Associate Justices subject to confirmation by the Legislature;

2. The Secretary of Interior shall not have the power to change the decisions of the High Court of American Samoa; and

3. The Secretary of Interior shall not have the power to change the Legislature’s override of the Governor’s Veto.

According to the official results released by the Election Office this week, 2,300 voted for amendment one, while 4,536 rejected this amendment. The second amendment had 2,743 for, while 4,106 were against. The third amendment was also rejected with 2,573 for it and 4,227 against.

The other 3 amendments not passed in the referendum and not included for possible reconsideration had to do with increasing faipule representation in the districts of Ituau and Tualauta, restoring five senators to Manu’a, and changing the county for Malaeimi, moving it to Ituau from Tualauta