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Revised electoral law tough on election-related offences

The recently revised Electoral Act has significantly increased penalties for election related offences prior to the 2019 National General Election.

These penalties range from fines of SB$10,000 for less serious offences up to SB$150,000.00 or 15 years imprisonment for the most serious offence.

Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Mose Saitala said Parliament has recently passed the revised Act and it is important that voters and candidates comply with these rules prior to and during the 2019 National General Election.

The new law, according Mr Saitala, was part of the Electoral Reform Programmes undertaken by the Electoral Commission to improve election processes and ensure elections are free, fair and credible.

Election Bribery tops the list of offences with a penalty of SB$150,000.00 or 15 years imprisonment or both. This section prohibits candidates from buying votes or voters soliciting the sale of their votes for any kind of benefit from a candidate.

Interfering with ballot papers or ballot boxes, Fraudulent voting, Undue Influence, Providing Misleading Information and Disclosing Information without authorization are amongst the second most serious offences which attracts penalties of SB50, 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment.

Interfering with ballot papers and ballot boxes is an offence if a person, without lawful authority removes a ballot paper from a polling station; or forges a ballot paper; or defaces a ballot paper completed by another person; or destroys a ballot paper; or supplies a ballot paper to another person; or destroys, takes, opens or interferes with a ballot box or packet of ballot papers.

Fraudulent voting refers to voting more than once and it is an offence to vote more than once; impersonate an elector for the purpose of voting; voting knowing you are not entitled to vote; and to induce and ineligible person to vote. The penalty for this offence is SB$50,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

Undue Influence is an offence if a person directly or indirectly, by violence, intimidation, threat or physical restraint, attempts to influence another person to vote or refrain from voting at an election or vote in a particular way at an election. The penalty for this offence is SB$50,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

Misleading information refers to giving misleading information or document to election official, Confidentiality of information refers to obtaining information as if you are the CEO, member of the Commission, an electoral official, a staff member of OSIEC or police officer, and then disclose this information to a person listed above and Protection of the Register refers to the alteration of the Register of Voters without proper authorization. The penalty for these offences is SB50, 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

Interfering with voting is another offence that has a penalty of $50,000.00. Interfering with Voting is an offence if one interferes with a person casting his/her vote; attempt to obtain info as to who the voter will or has voted for; entering the voting booth while another person is inside; obstruct and delays proceeding or access to polling station.

The revised Act also increases campaign expenses from SB$50,000.00 to SB$500,000.00. However, a candidate that spends more than $500,000 in campaign expenses commits an offence and a candidate who accepts campaign donation from a non-citizen person or a company who has a non-citizen shareholder commit an offence and the penalty for these offences is SB$50,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

Another offence under the revised Act is inciting election boycott. This section applies to a person who has customary authority or religious influence over a group of people. The person commits an offence if the person issues or causes to be issued a direction that, having regard to the nature and extent of the person’s authority or to a probable consequence of non-compliance with the direction, is likely to cause a group of persons to refrain from voting in an election. The penalty for this offence is SB$30,000 or 3 years imprisonment, or both.

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