The Electoral Commission has kicked off its provincial grassroots awareness program to increase voter awareness ahead of the upcoming National General Election starting in Auki, Malaita Province the national games.

The awareness team of two officers from the Electoral Commission and the Sei
Theater drama group took advantage of hundreds of athletes, officials and visitors
from across the country being in the one place.

The group spent the weekend in Auki performing, distributing information and
answering questions, and is now touring ten other areas in Malaita including Malu'u,
Fo'ondo and Kakara during this week.

In Malu'u market on Monday around 100 people attended, with elders encouraging the
Electoral Commission to cover as many villages as possible before election day.

"With four years between elections, many people forget the information regarding how
to vote. All this information is very important - not just how to vote but the election
penalties so people are educated about their democratic right to decide who to vote
for - and not for someone to decide their vote for them," the elder said.

The Sister of Malu'u clinic said that radio doesn't have the same impact as drama.
"Theatre brings everything alive so that people can understand the things to do and
behaviours that we as voters should stand against."

Other areas that the group will be doing their performances include Dala, Kilusakoalo, Talakali and Bina before they travel to Western province.

Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Polycarp Haununu, said that this program aims to go
directly to large village areas to inform as many people as possible of the upcoming
National General Election on 4 August, and to ensure that all citizens know what to do on polling day.

"The election is an important event for our country in which all eligible citizens choose their leader to represent them in Parliament as law makers," Mr Haununu said.

"It is very important for all citizens to understand the election process to avoid
suspicions on the process and obtain an election that is free from influence and is fair to all".

Mr Haununu said it was the first time the Electoral Commission had combined drama
with its election message, and was making every effort with limited resource to get
out its message to people across Solomon Islands using radio, tv, newspapers and
community outreach at a village level.

The highlight of the program at Auki was the drama performed by the Sei Theatre
group which attracted crowds of people who gathered to witness the show. The group dramatized the process of How To Vote which happens in the polling station and explains what people should expect to see in a polling station. For example, how to mark the ballot paper by ticking one box to choose your candidate, the inking of the left small finger and the single ballot box with it's new security seal.

Electoral Commission representative, Mr. Francis Iro, said marking the ballot paper
correctly, inking of the finger and the security seal are the most important things that people must know.

"People must know how to mark their ballot paper correctly otherwise their ballot paper becomes invalid and will not be counted," Mr Iro said.

"Inking the left smallest finger with new special ink, will help Polling Officials identify voters trying to cast their vote twice. This is an offence that the Electoral Commission wants people to be mindful of."

Parliament recently passed new laws increasing the penalty for voting twice from $100
to $3000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 3 months.

The new ballot box seal has been introduced to replace the old lock and key method
of closing the ballot box.

"Another important thing that people must know is the new security seal that the
Electoral Commission will be using to seal ballot boxes".

Mr Iro assured the audiences in Auki that this seal will secure all ballot boxes and
voters' ballot papers as well from the starting of polling, to the time the ballot boxes are opened at the provincial counting station.

The Electoral Commission is working hard and trying its best to conduct a free and fair Election for this upcoming 2010 National General Election that is all voters to cast their vote one time only at one place only.

A second Electoral Commission awareness team has began visiting parts of Eastern