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.
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.
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.
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.
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.