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Pohnpei State Election Office To Be Automated

Terri Harding, MSPP staff member

Things are changing at the Pohnpei State Election Office. In order to improve the management of voter registration information, a computer database has been created through a joint effort between the election office and the University of Oregon's Micronesia and South Pacific Program.

The project began in 1996, when Election Officer John Thomas sought out the support of Governor Del S. Pangelinan. Once the governor approved the project, Thomas requested funding from the state legislature and then applied for technical assistance from the University of Oregon. According to Thomas, the objectives of automating the election data are 1) to illuminate problems of duplicate voting and sort out double names, 2) to keep records up to date, and 3) to speed up the election process.

The Micronesia and South Pacific Program (MSPP) has been providing assistance to state agencies on Pohnpei since 1990. The main objectives of the MSPP are to transfer skills, encourage cross-cultural collaboration, and promote sustainable island development. Eldon Haines was sent to work with Thomas from June through September, 1996. Together, Thomas and Haines developed the voter registry database.

Thomas sees the database as part of a larger phenomenon of bringing Pohnpei into the information age. He is currently off-island on educational leave, participating in a one-year computer training certification program at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, where he continues to receive the support of MSPP Director Maradel Gale and Program Manager Nancy Peyron. "They have been very hospitable. The program is committed to helping people and the islands," Thomas commented.

Meanwhile, the Election Officers is busy inputting names and information into the database in order to be ready for the next general election in 1999. The process should run smoothly, according to Thomas. The database automatically keeps track of each voter's polling location, address, and whether they have voted. It generates signature lists for the workers at each polling place. That way, the printouts will correctly indicate where the person is voting, and eliminate problems with duplication.

For example, the printout might say, "voting by absentee" or "voting on Hawaii." This message instructs a poll worker to prohibit those persons from voting at the polls. Regularly registered voters will vote at their assigned location and sign their name, ensuring only one ballot is cast for each registered voter.

Eventually, all new voter registration will be done by computer. The database will require continual updating and maintenance, which the staff are now trained to do. "It is a very exciting project," said Thomas. "And it helps us fulfill our responsibility to Pohnpeians more effectively."


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