New and bigger penalties for election offences were announced yesterday by the Electoral Commission and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

The new penalties cover offences such as voting more than once, voting under a different name, and giving or receiving a bribe to influence a vote.

Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Polycarp Haununu, said the offences are significantly higher than for the last national election to try and avoid people breaking the law.

"During the last election, the penalty was very low for voting twice - only $100. The new penalty is now $3,000," Mr Haununu said.

"The big increases better reflect the seriousness of these offences in today's monetary values and the Electoral Commission hopes that they make people think twice about breaking the law."

The joint launch is a symbol of the partnership between the police and the Electoral Commission to make sure that this coming national general election is conducted freely, fairly and safely.

Acting Police Commissioner, Mr Walter Kola, said that it was important that the public was aware of the new penalties and called on people to come out and support the work of the police and the Electoral Commission to ensure a smooth running election.

"The police have already begun planning for Election Day and will be actively monitoring the election process and will enforce the law if offences are detected", Mr Kola said.

"If an offence is investigated and the ploice charge a person they will be taken to court."

Mr Haununu also emphasized that along with voter registration, the Electoral Commission alone cannot conduct a free and fair election.

"The Electoral Commission needs the assistance of other government agencies, and most importantly, the support of every man and woman, so that every voter has the chance to cast one vote on Election Day - free to choose, without undue influence, a person to be their voice in National Parliament for the next four years. I again urge the public to support the police and support the Electoral Commission to conduct a better national general election - it is a joint responsibility together with you, me and every good people of Solomon Islands."

The offences, and old and new penalties are as follows: Voting when not entitled or voting more than once was $100 but now would be $3000; Breaching candidate expenditure limit was $100 but now $3000; False answer to challenge questions in a polling station was $100 but now $3000; Offences in respect of nomination papers was $200 but now $5000; Infringement of secrecy was $100 but now $3000; Bribery, treating or undue influence was $200 but now $5000; Impersonation was $100 but now $3000; Certain illegal practices was $100 but now $3000; Interference with lawful public meeting was $100 but now $3000; Display of emblems in vicinity of polling place was $20 but now $1000.

Source: Press Release, Solomon Islands Electoral Commission and RSIPF