Senate move to hike Manu’s senators to 5 would face a referendum vote
If approved by the Fono and endorsed by voters, Manu’a would have five senators in the Legislature, as proposed by Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli in a Senate Joint Resolution he introduced before lawmakers went on their current 14-day mid session recess.
In accordance with the Constitution, the Senate consists of 18 members — three from the Manu’a District; six from the Western District and nine from the Eastern District. And according to the statute — two senators represent Fitiuta, Faleasao and Ta’u with one senator representing Olosega and Ofu. (Sili is not mentioned in the law.)
Galeai’s measure would increase the number of senators from 18 to 20 — with five from the Manu’a District, which would be “composed of one senator from each of the five respective traditional counties of the Manu’a: Ta’u, Fitiuta, Faleasao, Olosega and Sili, and Ofu.” The measure also seeks to amend the law.
In the Joint Resolution preamble, Galeai points out that there are 15 traditional counties in American Samoa, five of them in the Manu’a island group, but the island group only has three senators. Galeai argues, “American Samoa is the only bicameral US jurisdiction with a Senate that under represents its districts.”
For example in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), there are nine senators for three senatorial districts. Additionally, states such as Hawai’i elect their senators from an equal amount of constituent districts there are in the Aloha State.
Furthermore, California elects one senator for each district, said Galeai, adding that other states such as Louisiana elect their senators by ‘single member district’ — which is to elect one office holder per electoral district.
“The Manu’a districts have been at a disadvantage in the Senate for too many years,” he said, and that it’s “time that Senate representation in American Samoa mirror image that of the rest of the United States.”
According to the constitution, a joint resolution is required to be approved by two-thirds of each chamber of the Fono when it comes to making any changes to the constitution. A Joint Concurrent Resolution is used by the Fono to recommend changes to the Constitution, which is then put to voters for the final decision.
Increasing the number of Manu’a senators from three to five was one of the many amendments approved during the 2010 Constitutional Convention, but the amendments were put to voters under a one-question ballot for electors to vote “yes” or “no” to the amendments, which was rejected by voters.
Speaking to the Fono in January this year, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga suggested that the Legislature look at any proposed amendments to the Constitution and if the Fono approves a particular issue it will be automatically placed on a referendum for the people to vote on during this year’s election. He says this process is more cost effective then spending funds to hold another constitutional convention.