Voting outside your constituency is one of the goals that the Electoral Commission is determined to achieve.
However, this may not be possible said, the Chairman of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission Patteson Oti in a statement, Monday.
He said, based on the successful implementation of the pre-poll legal provision in the 2019 national general elections, the Electoral Commission has been planning to pilot the ‘out of constituency voting’ (OCV) service during the South Choiseul Constituency National By-Election 2021.
“However, the trialing plan to implement this ‘out of constituency voting’ (OCV) will now no longer be possible in the coming South Choiseul By-Election”, Mr. Oti Said.
He said that, whilst the Electoral Act 2018 (section 94) provides for pre-polling voting services for election officials, the inclusion and application for out of constituency voting under that provision of the Electoral Act is much more complex than envisaged, and which will potentially require a further amendment to the Electoral Law.
In the statement, chairman Oti explained that the ‘Out of Constituency Voting’ facility would enable voters to vote outside their constituency, through a pre-polling arrangement under an expanded category of voters under S.94 of the Electoral Act 2018.
“This voting service would enable those whose names on the voter list for the constituency they are registered in, but will not be at their polling station on election day, therefore can still vote by way of application for pre-poll from anywhere in the country,” he elaborated.
“Unfortunately, trialing of the out of constituency voting during the South Choiseul by-election will now no longer be possible due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, including legal limitations under the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.
“Firstly, Electoral Commission’s good intension for the implementation of the out of constituency voting (OCV) service was during pre-covid19 times, however, with the onslaught of covid-19 pandemic last year, its negative impact on all government finances is being felt throughout all government agencies including the Office of the Electoral Commission, Mr. Oti explained.
“Secondly, they need more enabling arrangements both within the SIEO staff capacity and specific provisions in the law, to enable informed preparation of more robust and electoral operation plan that will ensure an effective and efficient delivery of this election OCV services to the people”, Mr. Oti continued.
While the Commission is currently committed to exploring the legal provision of additional services to the electorate, such as OCV, its ability to do so requires that there are enabling legal provisions providing the legal basis for such services, improved staff capacity, finance, and a robust and credible operations plan
Accordingly, if such requirements are fulfilled, then the Commission will be in a position to assess the possibility of embarking on such services for the 2023 national general elections.
The Electoral Commission has instructed the Chief Electoral Officer and her Team to continue to work on the operation plans for this, in the event an opportunity arises before the 2023 national general elections to pilot OCV. Otherwise, Solomon Islands Electoral Commission will just have to ensure that national operation plans are as detailed, robust, and credible as can be for the 2023 national general election and at the same time to continue to work on the necessary adjustments to the electoral law.