Over 600 soldiers from the 1-294th Infantry Regiment are preparing for their training in California for three weeks starting in the last week of October, which would mean they are going to miss the vote in the general election on Nov. 6.
When the Guam Election Commission realized the soldiers will be away for training, they went into action and began coordination to provide the Guam Army Guard members a chance to cast their ballot.
Over the Guam Guard's two-day drill this weekend, the GEC set up their registration and voting booths at one of the buildings in the Guam Guard's Barrigada Readiness Center
GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan said she wanted to ensure the soldiers got an opportunity to vote.
“We initiated conversation with the National Guard, and started something actually in the primary election. When we heard that there was a deployment, we contacted the Guard, in a very indirect way, on an unofficial basis, and found out there was this situation. So we're here. The Guam Election Commission is all about getting as fair and honest an election as possible, and getting the voter turnout up, and the registration numbers up,” Pangelinan said.
“We have a federal mandate to extend the right to vote, as much as possible, to our military folks,” she added.
Soldiers trudged through the rain Saturday morning and walked to the impromptu polling station to cast their vote.
SPC Chrissy Castro, from Foxtrot Company, said she was pleased to be able to have the chance to cast her ballot and not miss this election.
“I think it's great that we get to vote early. It shows that our voice is going to be counted even though we won't be here. It's giving us a chance to pick our leaders,” she said.
There were over 300 soldiers registered to vote on the list given to GEC, according to Pangelinan. However, they were also registering soldiers who were not on the voting rolls due to a variety of reasons, as long as they showed proof of citizenship.
A total of about 180 Guam Guard soldiers were able to cast their ballots during that time. The early voting was only open to soldiers who were going to be off-island for training.
The 1-294th Infantry Regiment is slated to deploy to Afghanistan early next year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Cpt. Ken Ola)