76.72 percent voter turnout

Still biggest in terms of actual voters

Tuesday’s election turnout was good and, although lower than the previous polls percentage-wise, it was the biggest in terms of the number of registered voters and those who actually cast their ballots.

Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero disclosed that out of 17,986 registered voters, a total of 13,798 voted, translating to a 76.72-percent turnout.

Guerrero said that’s where the voters’ turnout has always been traditionally, so this year’s is almost the same compared to the past elections.

However, considering the number of voters who registered and voted, this year is the biggest in CNMI history, he added.

Voter turnout in 2009 stood at 86 percent. In the 2005 gubernatorial elections when Benigno R. Fitial edged Heinz Hofschneider by just 99 votes, the voter turn out was 93 percent.

CEC chair Frances Sablan said Tuesday’s elections had a very good turnout, especially from the absentee voters. She said the absentee voting itself had roughly about 89 percent turnout.

On the issue of delayed tallying of votes, Sablan said they tried to do the tabulation right after the polls closed at 7pm, but they were then still processing the absentee ballots.

“We started earlier this year. We started picking up the absentee ballots at 9:30pm so that we can have a head start. But even then we were still delayed,” she said.

This year, Sablan said, the tabulating machines were some of the factors that caused the delay.

“We have a different machine. The capability is slower and not as fast as the bigger machines,” she said.

The tabulation started close to midnight. Guerrero announced the first results at 12:40am Wednesday. He announced the results of the final set of ballots at 8:10am.

On the Rota issue, Sablan explained that it was a technical problem in terms of paper. She said the law specifies that that they need to do the official tabulation and have a printed report before the ballots can leave the designated island, in this case Rota.

“We were not able to produce the printed report so therefore we couldn’t bring the ballots over. So we had to send down the paper,” she said.

To send down the paper to Rota, CEC had to charter a flight. The plane came from Tinian and had to fly to Saipan first to get the paper before flying to Rota.

On gubernatorial runoff race, Sablan said the printing of ballots will be done locally.

“We’re going to do a manual count so it’s something within our means. And we’ve done it before in the 2009 election,” she said.

She said the counting will take a few hours and they’re hoping to complete the counting before midnight.

Sablan said the special election process also caused a delay as they had to sort the ballots and then count.

She also noted that sorting the absentee ballots was another a time-consuming process.

The CEC chair said they had expected to be more efficient and be able to come up with the results earlier this year but with the glitches they had with the machine, troubleshooting for Rota, and the processing of the absentee ballots, all of these added up to more delays.

“So it was a setback,” she added.

On the certification of results, Sablan said once they get all the information they will do so because right now they print them out and have to consolidate and compile the results from the different tabulation machines.

“So once that is set, we will certify,” she said, hinting that they may do it today, Friday.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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