The Cook Islands Electoral Office will be put under a huge strain should rumours be confirmed and a snap election is called.
Rumours have been swirling through the coconut wireless recently about a snap election being called before the set election date of October 9.
In parliament last month, prime minister Henry Puna told the opposition not to bother about things “you can’t control” after questions about the rumoured snap elections this May were raised.
“We know what the law is. We have to have the elections by October 9, so we have all this time to figure out when we should have our elections,” Puna told parliament.
However, these rumours were buoyed by the updating of electoral roles last month, although chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua said at the time that was not an indication of one looming.
But if one is called, the tight schedule would do no favours to the electoral office.
“If the election is called say tomorrow, at the very least there will be 30 days to conduct the election, but we will not have ample time to allow for postal voting. Despatching (to the outer islands) is all right but the turnaround time is very limited,” Tangimetua said.
“It’s a very tight schedule and ideally if given the heads up or a prior warning, it will allow for proper planning and to ease up the workload.”
Tangimetua said that she had heard the rumours just like everyone else, but their office is getting prepared just as they would in a normal election year.
This preparation consists of updating rolls, getting materials ready, identifying staff and negotiating for transportation, particularly to the northern group.
Tangimetua also provided a timeline to illustrate how the election process works.
“The main roll closes seven days after the declaration of election, supplementary roll closes 14 days after the main roll, and nominations close 10 days after the main roll closes or 17 days after the declaration,” she explained.
“Printing of ballot papers – you’d at least give the printers three to five days after the close of nominations, then you have the problem of despatching the voting papers to the outer islands, let alone posting overseas.
“Added to this is the amount of paperwork and documentation that needs to be done along every step of the way, and the queries and questions to be answered.”
In her comments last month, Tangimetua said it was important to make sure that eligible voters were enrolled and that their details are kept up to date.
For people who are not enrolled, they can enrol now by downloading and completing the enrolment form and returning it to the electoral office.
Tangimetua said that voting is not compulsory, but registration is.