Bill to Allow Stranded Voters to Cast Ballots

The Senate passed in final reading today a bill that would authorize the Chief Election Officer to propose procedures to enable voters currently stranded off island due to the COVID-19 pandemic to vote absentee in the November 3rd election.

The bill sponsored by Senators Faamausili Mau Mau Jr , and Magalei Logovii states that there remains less than 3 months until the general elections for governor and lt governor, House of Representatives and Delegate to the US Congress, and flights to the territory remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s believed to be more than 500 residents awaiting flights to resume so they can return home and many of them are registered voters, says the preamble of the bill. “The qualified voters have a right to vote in election, and so that the border closure does not inadvertently disenfranchise those stranded off island, the government must prepare a process for them to vote by mail.”

New language has been added to Section 1. 6.0105 which reads:”If a declared national or local emergency makes compliance with the provision of this title impossible or unreasonable, the Chief Election Officer is authorized to immediately prepare procedures to ensure the qualified elections who are caused to be disenfranchised are provided a ballot. The procedures shall be transmitted to the legislature for their immediate approval or disapproval no later than 60 days prior to any election for which the ballots are to be cast.

“Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, upon approval by the legislature , the procedures shall become effective immediately and shall have the force of law, except that the use of the procedures shall cease upon declaration by the executives that the emergency no longer exists.”

The bill becomes effective immediately upon passage by the legislature and approval by the governor.

Senators approved the bill in final reading today and sent it to the House of Representatives for review.

As KHJ News has reported the Election Office maintains that it has the authority under existing law to amend the election rules to accommodate voters who are stranded off island due to the pandemic.

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