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American Samoa to vote on new constitution

by | Nov 7, 2022 | American Samoa, Elections, Federal Government, Headlines | 1 comment

The last gathering of the American Constitutional Convention took place on September 17, 1787. It saw generals and intellectuals, from George Washington to James Madison, draft and revise the official Constitution of the United States, which remains in place today. American Samoa created its constitution far more recently. The first constitutional convention of American Samoa began on September 26, 1966, when voters approved the modern territorial bylaws which added elements of greater self-government. This November 8, American Samoans will be asked to vote on several constitutional amendments for the territory. 

Members of American Samoa's 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa
Members of American Samoa’s 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa

Amendment 1 calls for the Governor of American Samoa to appoint the chief and associate justice of the High Court. In the current laws, this power belongs to the Secretary of the Interior of the United States. This revision attempts to democratize the territorial supreme court and shift power to American Samoans. 

Amendments 2 and 3 would shift more power from the US Secretary of the Interior toward American Samoans. The federal official would cease to be able to overrule decisions handed out by the High Court. The Secretary of the Interior would no longer have the power to impede upon the territorial legislatures’ veto overrides, once again attempting to curb power from the more authoritative mainland. The passage of such amendments would increase the autonomy of American Samoa by limiting how much the United States could get involved. 

Signers of American Samoa's 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa
Signers of American Samoa’s 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa

Amendments 4, 5, 6, and 7 all concern expanding the legislatures. 4 broadens the inclusivity of the territory’s House of Representatives by calling for an addition of two seats: one for the Ituau district and one for Tuala-uta. 5 would include the village Malaeimi in the Ituau district and 6 would provide the delegate from Swains Island a vote in the House. Amendment 7 seeks to expand the Senate by two seats by granting a voice to the Manu’a islands. Once again, these changes would greatly expand domestic representation and democracy in the territory. 

Secretary, Chairman, and Vice Chairman of American Samoa's 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa
Secretary, Chairman, and Vice Chairman of American Samoa’s 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa

Amendment 8 strives to hold territorial leadership more accountable by establishing an impeachment process for the governor and lieutenant governor. This would vastly increase the scrutiny under which the territorial governors are regarded. 

Amendments 9, 10, and 11 are minor name changes that would not particularly impact domestic or regional affairs. 

Counting of the ballots of American Samoa's 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa
Counting of the ballots of American Samoa’s 6th Constitutional Convention. Photo credit: Government of American Samoa

In the last 230 years, US citizens have made 27 amendments to their constitution. This year, the people of American Samoa will have the chance to revise their foundational document to a version they deem fit for the future of their territory.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Akash Anand

Akash Anand

Akash Anand is a senior at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California. His professional interests include international relations, foreign policy, and law—and he seeks to use journalism as a modem for engaging those interests and impacting the world. Akash hopes that by working at Pasquines, he can report on the issues that are close to him—and millions of others across the nation and the world—and by doing so, truly be able to provide a voice to the voiceless. Akash is Political Affairs Intern Correspondent at Pasquines.

1 Comment

  1. MARK sEIDENBERG

    This would be great news to the Jennings family. It is time that Alex Jennings get the vote. Back on 13 May 1924 at a meeting between Carl Lomen of Nome, Alaska and Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, the islands of Swains and Wrangell were discussed between them as to status. Following that on 22 May 1924, Hughes wrote that Swains Island should be attached to the Government of American Samoa like Wrangell Island was added to the District of Alaska on 17 May 1884, similar to the
    action the Alaska Board of the US Department of the Treasury took under the terms of Section 1 of the Harrison Alaska Organic Act.

    It was on 17 May 1884 that six islands were added to Alaska by resolution by that Alaska Board under the terms of Section 1 of the Harrison Alaska Organic Act. Then on 1 April 1924, the Lomen Brothers of Nome, Alaska went on title to Wrangell Island of the Arctic Ocean. On 4 November 2022, the Wall Street Journal ran a article by Thomas Dans about the returning of Wrangell Island [under the name of Wrangel (sic.) Island or Ostrov Vrangelya in Russian]. Tolelau is not the only pretender to claims to an American Island. Russia has made a pretentious claim to Wrangell Island (formerly known as New Columbia Land), Alaska.

    Reply

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