SIEC scraps new method for 2019 national general elections
BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
THERE will be no out-of-constituency voting in the upcoming 2019 general election, according to the Office of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, (SIEC).
The commission’s capacity cannot cater for such task, plus nationwide consultation have not provided consolidated feedback.
In a media statement, SIEC Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Moses Saitala said, “The SIEC during its meeting held on Thursday, June 21, 2018, having considered all the pros and cons of conducting out-of-constituency voting, has finally decided not to conduct any out-of-constituency voting during the next General Election.
“The current capacity of the Office of the SIEC significantly influence the Commission’s decision. It was nonetheless a decision the Commission needs to make as early as possible to make it clear to intending candidates and the general public that out-of-constituency voting will not be conducted during the 2019 General Election.”
The out-of-constituency method of voting allows registered voters to cast their ballot papers in designated polling stations by pre-polling or during polling day, outside of their constituencies.
Saitala said over the past months, past and existing members of Parliament, intending candidates, and the general public have generated much interest in the possibility of the voting method being rolled out in the 2019 elections.
He said people supported the method for the reason that it will stop candidates from hiring air and sea transportation for voters from their home constituencies to travel to cast their ballots in their constituencies.
Candidates who do not necessarily have the capital to carry out the above activity are also in support of the voting method as it will provide a level playing field for all candidates.
SIEC had brought the out-of-constituency voting method to the public for discussion in 2016 and 2017, and the result has not been conclusive.
“The consolidated feedback from the nationwide consultation however was not a decisive preference by the people for the introduction of this voting method. There was an equal split of those who supports its introduction and those who do not,” said Saitala.
He emphasised that this led SIEC to closely look into the merits and demerits of executing the voting method.
Saitala stressed that the introduction of out-of-constituency voting will certainly require more resources such as more training, more printing and more polling stations which means there will also be the need of more polling staff and security personnel.
“Because of the desire to contain cost, and being mindful of the capacity of the SIEC, it was considered prudent that if out-of-constituency voting method was to be introduced it will be introduced first for electors residing in Honiara because of their work, study or training commitments, but registered to vote in their constituencies.”
In relation, Saitala noted that the high cost of conducting out-of-constituency voting makes it necessary to gradually introduce it to the country.
“Overseas countries where Solomon Islanders reside for work, study or training purposes were also considered as places where out-of-constituency voting might be conducted.”
Saitala adds, the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission is yet to develop sufficient measures that will prevent voters who are not ordinarily residents of a constituency from registering in that constituency.
SIEC concurs to the need of developing more robust measures that will cater for effective and efficient verification of proof that an elector is indeed undeniably an ordinarily resident of the constituency she or he aspires to register as a voter.
“SIEC agrees that unless these verification tools are developed, it will be hard to rule out the possibility of any elector registering as a voter in a constituency he/she is not an ordinarily resident of.”