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    Monday, March 25, 2019-7:55:27A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Regional News

Former Palau president wants to scrap absentee voting

KOROR (Island Times/Pacnews) — A petition to limit voting at national and state elections to citizens physically present on island on election day was announced by former President Johnson Toribiong.

Currently, Palau’s Constitution allows for absentee ballots.

Johnson Toribiong

More and more voters residing overseas are affecting Palau’s election outcomes, Toribiong said.

Many Palauans who have been living overseas for years do not pay Palau taxes or contribute to its economy but their decisions impact those living in Palau, he added. “These voters do not feel the consequences of their decision.”

 He added, “Those who live on the land are the ones who should decide for themselves for they know the issues and the challenges better.”

Another reason to support the petition is the recurring concern of voter fraud, especially when a number of absentee ballots are sent to one address and all ballots are sent back in one mail package, Toribiong said. Numerous allegations of absentee ballot manipulation and fraud have been raised during past elections, he added.

The high cost of campaigning overseas is another reason for the petition, he said.

Toribiong, who was Palau’s president from 2009 to 2013, said  one airline ticket to Guam is about $1,000 and campaigning overseas usually involves an entourage, gifts of food and betel nut, as well as hiring entertainers, among other things.

He said the high cost of campaigning overseas deters qualified and educated candidates with no financial means from running for offices. It only enables those with financial means to run for office, he added.

If 25 percent of Palau’s registered voters sign the petition, it will be placed on a ballot in a referendum to be held at least six months before the general elections of 2020.