Over 900 absentee ballots were counted by hand last night, confirming Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan as the winner in the Commonwealth’s first-ever congressional election.
Delegate-elect Sablan, who is now in Washington, D.C. to attend a briefing for new congressional members, got 2,474, or 23 percent, of the total votes cast. That is 357 more than the votes for his closest opponent, Resident Rep. Pete A. Tenorio, who received 2,117, or 20 percent.
The absentee ballot count, which took two and a half hours, revealed that the two rivals matched almost vote for vote. Sablan got 195 absentee votes and Tenorio gained 198.
“There’s nothing we can do. That’s the people’s choice. We wish the delegate-elect the best for the next two years,” said former representative Ana Teregeyo, a supporter of Tenorio.
Retired judge Juan T. Lizama garnered the largest number of absentee votes, 208. With a total of 1,819, Lizama remained in the fourth spot. He came behind television talk show host John Oliver Gonzales, who got 1,855 votes, including 115 from off-island voters.
The other five candidates who ran are: Sen. Luis P. Crisostimo, who got 67 absentee votes, for a total of 946 votes; former senator David M. Cing, 37 absentee votes for a total of 307 votes; businessman Chong Won, 11 absentee votes for a total of 230 votes; Saipan Municipal councilman Felipe Atalig, 21 absentee votes for a total of 228 votes; and high school teacher John Davis Jr., 15 absentee votes for a total of 164 votes.
The Commonwealth Election Commission mailed out 1,118 absentee ballots, and received 927 returns—or 82 percent—as of yesterday. Only 867 were counted. The 60 rejected returns include: 41 that were mailed after the Nov. 4 deadline, 10 that had no postmarks, five exposed ballots, two unmarked ballots, one ballot that had multiple marks, and one empty envelope.
Overall, 10,335, or 79 percent, of registered voters participated in the historic election.