Election countdown continues as Electoral Commission meet returning officers


12 November 2010 With one more week to go before the General Election on 25 November, 2010, the Tonga Electoral Commission called a meeting with returning officers at the Molitoni Hall today.

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Mr. Pita Vuki (far right) with Electoral Commission staff during the presentation

Mr. Pita Vuki, Commissioner and Supervisor of Elections led the meeting with a short presentation and orientation programme for the returning officer before they were to take their oath of duty for this coming election. The returning officers were also made aware of their designated polling stations.

A turnout of over 50 returning officers who are mainly civil servants from various Government Ministries and Departments were at the meeting. Also attending were Electoral Commission staff and special consultants to the Electoral Commissioners.

Under the Electoral Act 1992, each appointed returning officer to be responsible for overseeing elections in one or more constituencies. On the day or election, the returning officers shall attend at the polling station that they are assigned to between the hours of 9 a.m and 4 p.m, which shall be the time for voting.

On the day of election, every employer shall allow any person employed by him on polling day sufficient time off work with full pay to enable that employee to vote at the nearest polling station for the constituencies in which he is registered.

The tasks and responsibilities of the returning officer is not one to be taken lightly, as each officer appointed for the purposes under the Electoral Act shall use or disclose information acquired by him in that capacity only accordance with his official duty. No returning officer, except for some purpose authorised by law shall:

-           interfere with or attempt to interfere with a voter when marking his vote;

-           attempt to obtain in the vicinity of a polling station information as to the candidate for whom any voter is about to vote or has voted;
-          Communicate at any time to any person any information obtained in a polling station as to the candidate for whom any voter is about to vote or has voted, or as to the number on the ballot paper given to any voter.
-          Every returning officer shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the voting, and shall not communicate any information obtained at the counting as to the candidate for whom any vote is given in any particular ballot paper.
-          No returning officer shall directly or indirectly induce any voter to display his ballot paper after he has marked it so as to make known to any person the name of any candidate for or against whom he has voted.
-           Every person who contravenes any provisions of this section is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $15000 or to imprisonment for any period not exceeding 18 months or to both such fine and imprisonment.

Another important aspect of the meeting is the new method of identifying the registered voters at each polling station with the use of the National Identity Card.  This year, each eligible registered voter has been issued a national identity Card, whereby this card is required for identifying the voter of that constituency.


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