THE wish to set up out of constituency voting booths in Honiara may not be possible in this coming national general election.
In a statement on Tuesday to clarify the issue following calls to set up voting booths in Honiara, the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) said that no out of constituency voting will be permitted due to legal constraints.
The SIEC met to discuss whether or not it would be possible for people to who will not be in the constituency where they are registered on election day, to cast what is called an ‘out of constituency’ ballot.
Out of constituency voting is available in some countries around the world but has not yet been tried in Solomon Islands.
“The Commission is listening to the community and we understand that there are a lot of people that support out of constituency voting, however the current laws simply do not allow it,” Chief Electoral Officer Polycarp Haununu said.
“While we understand that going back to your home Province to vote is extremely costly, the law is very clear on this matter. You must vote in the constituency where you are registered.”
The SIEC said the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act makes reference to polling stations being set up “within the electoral constituency.”
The legislation does not cover out of constituency voting, the statement added.
The Chief Electoral officer said that beyond the legal constraints, there are also significant technical barriers to setting up out of constituency voting.
“Setting up facilities for out of constituency voting entails a great deal of forward planning, including public awareness programs, and to do so 4 to 5 weeks away from polling day is impossible,” Mr Haununu said.
“Under the current laws, all votes for a constituency must be counted together. That means that votes would have to be moved between Provinces. We believe that represents an unacceptable risk of interference with ballot boxes.”
The Commission said it hopes to consider this matter again in the future, passing a resolution that out of constituency voting be reviewed as part of the electoral legislative reform process in 2015.
“Improving our electoral system is a long term process. Over the last 12 months we have already taken a great leap forward in cleaning up the Electoral Roll and implementing the Biometric Voter Registration system. We are always considering improvements to our systems and processes but we are a young country and these things take time.”
The SIEC said the issue serves as a timely reminder to all registered voters, especially those who registered at the Out of Constituency Voter Registration Centre at the Art Gallery in Honiara earlier this year.
“You must cast your ballot in the constituency that you registered to vote in. If you used the Out of Constituency Voter Registration Centre in Honiara to register to vote in your home province you must go home to vote,” Mr Haununu said.
“Those voters who used the Out of Constituency Voter Registration Centre at the Art Gallery earlier this year were told that they will have to go home to vote. That remains the case.”
The SIEC has begun rolling out it’s Provincial Voter Awareness program and says it will be taking this message along with other important information to the Provinces over the coming weeks.