Tanna understaffing sees voter registration delays

The Tafea Province has called for a full-time electoral officer to be base in Tanna to inform and prepare the population for the provincial elections.

The Secretary General for Tafea Province, Joe Iautim, says a full-time electoral officer is needed on the island to ensure all voters are able to vote in the upcoming poll in May.

He says voter registration was due to close in Tafea Province on 31 March and an electoral officer who had been sent to Tanna has been working “long hours” to people’s voting documents.

“An island like Tanna where all voters want to exercise their rights to vote must have a full-time electoral officer stationed here,” Mr Iautim said.

He says a full-time electoral officer would allow, particularly voters from remote areas, to update their voter and national identification cards in time for polling.

Many Tanna voters have to travel long distances from as far as East and South Tanna and experience long waits to register for voting or update their voting documents.

Mr Iautim, says the province does not have the authority to extend the voter registration period past the 31 March as the dates are put in place by the Electoral Commission.

Ettiene Ravo, the Deputy Director for the Civil Registry, says the Electoral Office in Port Vila is aware of the concerns and will “take action”.

Mr Ravo says the Port Vila office has advertised for a Tanna-based electoral officer who will work out of Tafea and it is in the process of recruiting an officer.

He says applications for the position have been received and shortlisted.

Mr Ravo says usually voter registration on Tanna would have closed earlier than 31 March but the Electoral Office had extended it to 31 March.

He says under the law, when the Electoral Office sets a date for voter registration or polls nothing can be done to change it and voter registration must close six weeks before an election.

However, he says a verification exercise has been done on Tanna earlier this month and all voter registrations should be processed in time for the provincial election on 12 May.

Provincial elections will also be held in Penama, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea provinces this year.

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