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Penrhyn ‘ready to vote’

Tuesday 12 March 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Local, National, Outer Islands, Politics


Penrhyn ‘ready to vote’
One of the polling stations ready to receive voters for the Penrhyn by election to be held today. Picture: PUNA VANO/24031130/2403111

Voters in the Cook Islands’ northern group island of Penrhyn head to the polls today for a by-election.

The polling stations at the Omoka Admin Building and Te Tautua Admin Building, will be open from 9am to 6pm. Provisions have been made for a mobile booth to allow those unable to attend the polling station to cast their votes.

Four candidates are vying for the Penrhyn seat which was left vacant following the conviction of former deputy prime minister Robert Tapaitau. Tapaitau, who won the Penrhyn seat under the Cook Islands Party (CIP) banner in the 2022 general election, was convicted of three charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage and a charge of conspiracy to defraud by Chief Justice Patrick Keane in January.

The four candidates include Cook Islands Party’s Vaine Wichman, Democratic Party’s Meremere Arake Tonitara and independents Sarakura Tapaitau and Tangata (Tata) Andrew Vaeau.

According to chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua, there are 113 registered voters including those eligible for postal votes and the ones residing in Rarotonga.

Voting in advance began on February 27 at the Office of the Chief Electoral (Statistics Office MFEM, Avarua, Rarotonga) and closed yesterday. The issuing of postal votes also started last month for eligible electors currently outside of the Cook Islands who had notified the chief electoral officer of their postal addresses.

Tangimetua said the proposed budget for the by election was $20,000 which included a charter flight yesterday for a team of six who will serve as electoral officers today.

She said the six officials will also conduct the climate change and labour force survey which they began upon arriving on the island yesterday

“We had to reschedule this survey so that we could do it together to save costs. The officials who are doing this survey also have experience with elections in Rarotonga,” Tangimetua said.

“These officials will conduct the survey today (yesterday) and if there are any households left, they will carry on after the heads of those households have voted (today). They return on Wednesday.”

Penrhyn executive officer Puna Vano said the preparations for the by election were “very controlled and disciplined”.

“It’s been a very smooth campaigning period and I guess people see it as a very important by election,” Vano said.

“Normally voting at Te Tautua finishes quite early because of fewer electorates in the village. Omoka is where the majority of voters reside.

“I wish all four candidates all the best.”

Vano said the team from Rarotonga wasted no time. They arrived yesterday and started surveying the homes on the island right away.

Vano released some of the Island Government staff to help out with the survey “basically making sure they get to the right homes”.

The preliminary results are expected to be released tonight, with the final count released on Thursday.