The Vanuatu Electoral Commission will adopt the “simple majority” rule for counting referendum votes.

This decision was revealed by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Edward Kaltamat while launching the 2024 National Referendum, Wednesday.

According to Kaltamat, the decision was made at the recent meeting of the Commission. He added that they will not use the qualifying majority or the territorial majority. Chairman Kaltamat added that new regulations will be developed to oversee the vote-counting process, due to the general nature of the current Referendum Act [CAP 297].

The referendum arose from the Parliament’s approval of proposed constitutional changes last year, according to Article 85. The Electoral Commission chairman said, it is up to the citizens to determine whether these changes will be enacted, as outlined in Article 86.

Managed by the Electoral Office, the referendum aims to provide citizens with a platform to express their views.

The goal is to make sure all eligible voters, both in the country and abroad, are reached. This requires “robust” awareness and outreach to inform and involve every citizen so they can take part in the referendum.

The aim is to create a fair environment where all eligible citizens vote and understand the changes and their impact.

On 22 January 2024, the Electoral Commission declared that 29 May, 2024 as polling day. Proxy applications for the referendum opened on 23 January 2024, and will close on 13 May 2024.

Voter registration will close on 17 April 2024, six weeks before polling day.

Nationwide advocacy and awareness efforts started on 07 February 2024, and will continue until 27 May 2024, 48 hours before polling day.

Vote counting is scheduled for 07 June2024, with results expected to be declared on 10 June 2024.
The Electoral Commission chairman mentioned that the national referendum is structured across three levels of governance: the national level, the provincial level, and the local area level.

At the national level, an imminent advisory committee will be established to provide support to the electoral commission.

Their role is to advise on how they journey towards achieving independence in 1980.

At this level also, they have a structured approach to carrying out referendum activities.

A communication group will oversee all awareness and outreach materials, ensuring they effectively manage any misinformation.

Another established group will be responsible for outreach. They will convene to develop plans on how to reach every eligible voter in the country and overseas.

Kaltamat also confirmed that they will have a legal committee tasked with ensuring all their actions are legally sound. There is also a finance committee overseeing the referendum’s finances.

These committees are set to convene for their inaugural meetings on February 9th.

The chairman said one of the goals for the upcoming referendum is to achieve a high voter turnout, unlike what has been observed in past elections.

He stated that the Commission also agreed that an information team would be stationed at every polling station to address referendum queries and questions raised on polling day.

Kaltamat acknowledged that the referendum is a significant undertaking supported by both the government and MPs. Now, it’s the responsibility of the citizens to complete this process. Therefore, he urges all citizens to work together to ensure the success of this referendum.

Minister of Internal Affairs, Johnny Koanapo, described the launch of the National Referendum as a significant historic milestone.

In his role overseeing the Electoral Office and Electoral Commission, he noted the importance of conducting the referendum to meet our desired expectations.

Minister Koanapo said he is looking forward to ensuring the referendum becomes a successful historical event.