The Senate confirmed yesterday four governor's appointees to the Commonwealth Election Commission, averting what commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero earlier said could be a “tremendous delay” in this year's election process because of a non-functioning election board resulting from a lack of quorum.
Senators confirmed the reappointment of Donald Hofschneider representing Tinian and the appointments of Leilani I. Manglona from Rota, Juan E. Santos Jr. from Tinian, and Trinidad L. Rabauliman from Saipan.
The four were confirmed as a result of the Senate's 7-0 vote on two separate reports from the Executive Appointments and Governmental Investigations Committee recommending that members of the full Senate give their advice and consent to the appointments.
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), chair of the EAGI Committee, said “because of the urgency of the matter” and a request from the Commission, the panel did forego public hearing on the nominations.
Two of the nominations-those of Manglona and Santos-were submitted to the Senate only yesterday and the Senate EAGI Committee conducted a quick review to come up with a recommendation to the full Senate.
“If absentee ballots do not come back on time, they won't be counted. The EAGI Committee does not want to deprive these voters of their right to vote. That's why this was done expeditiously but with conditions,” Cruz told reporters.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial appointed Hofschneider on Aug. 9, when he fired former commissioner Joe Kiyoshi citing constitutional issues. Kiyoshi's termination left the commission without a quorum.
But instead of just confirming one to ensure the board has a quorum, the Senate went ahead to confirm three other nominees.
The senators confirmed the nominees without receiving their drug test results and other requirements. But the Senate said if the drug test results for any of the nominees turn out to be positive, or they failed to submit all documents, their confirmation will be automatically rescinded.
Guerrero reiterated yesterday his request to the Senate to confirm nominees to the commission because a continuing lack of quorum would mean automatic certification of candidates and legislative initiatives 45 days before the elections or on Sept. 22.
The election board’s lack of quorum will also push back the sending of absentee ballots and the printing of the official ballots.
Absentee ballots cannot be sent without being certified by the board. The election board will begin accepting requests for absentee ballots on Aug. 23. These ballots are usually sent to absentee voters upon receipt of their request.