Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands headed to the polls Monday to vote in an election that was embroiled in controversy over overseas postal voting concerns.
Currently, only qualified Marshallese citizens living in the RMI can vote in the elections. But after this election year, Marshallese citizens living overseas — in states such as Arizona and Hawaii —- will be allowed to cast their vote after the Marshall Islands’ Supreme Court approved a postal voting rule this month.
Despite the court’s opinion, officials say the election will proceed as planned, based on the current law and with the existing restrictions on postal ballots.
Around 30,000 Marshallese citizens are in diaspora due to displacement caused by rising sea levels and to avoid the lingering effects of the nuclear tests done in the area between 1946 and 1962..
With the RMI Supreme Court overturning the current statute, Marshallese citizens living overseas can now do postal voting in the next elections.
Current RMI President Hilda Heine is appealing to voters to give her administration another term in office, saying the nation has surged ahead over the last four years. Heine was elected on January 2016, becoming the country’s first female president.