A tool for politicians and voters to fix the CNMI


If there is one thing we have learned as humans, it is the fact that we need tools to maximize our physical and nonphysical capabilities. It has been over five years since I first started talking about getting the CNMI a new tool—a polling system. Unlike the rest of America where every state has some kind of polling system, we are still conducting our politics using what I call the “fly-by-coconut-wire politics” to gauge the people. The CNMI is still in its formative years, trying to build and develop a robust economy that will provide a high quality of life for citizens but we are struggling because our tool is as old-fashioned as the machete. We are trying to build a house with only a machete when we need power tools. You can build a house with a machete but we all know the house will not be a modern house. The marijuana issue reminded me of the polling system and hopefully now that election season is over and cooler heads prevail, the benefits of a polling system will be more appealing and better received given what we are facing with legalization and other issues. I have always believed that issues should stand on their own merits and if you take that stance you should embrace a polling system as only politicians who don’t want to be held accountable would be against the people having a voice with a voter polling system.

Hearings are an open-ended educational experience and they will often take a life of their own as information is disclosed, which we witnessed as the issue went from medical use only to full legalization because of the overwhelming support and the facts that supported this shift, even though there was an attempt to prevent it from happening. In other words, hearings are for exposing something or someone, as the Senate hearings exposed some facts that proved full legalization is a better option than medical only. It is just the reality of the truth and merits prevailing as they should. Hearings are just not suited for polling as they don’t represent a large enough sampling of society and many people will not participate out of fear. I’m sure there are some people still against marijuana for whatever reason but their voices have been silent in part because of the public exposure but every voice can be heard in total privacy with a polling system.

There have been many issues we could have solved and moved on but instead many issues have lingered as long as a decade or more. The land alienation issue which the CNMI pledged in the Covenant to address in 2011 is still lingering over the CNMI, the casino issue that took two votes and over a decade, the alien worker issue is another example when Kilili just decided on his own what to do without a town hall meeting or any polling of the people, and the poker machines in villages issue now that people are being killed has never been put to the people so it is still lingering. Heck, the House of Representatives just passed a bill to consider changing our political status without a single survey or polling of the people so how do they know what the majority want? They needed to poll all the local people before passing a law of this magnitude. I’m not taking sides but do they know the CNMI can’t change its political status without America’s approval? Read the Covenant! We could end up angering Congress when we should be nurturing our relationship—another lesson already taught to us by Gov. Froilon who made the feds angry at us with similar talk and spending millions on lobbyists to fight the feds!

But the marijuana bill is clear proof we need a polling system as it is clear to me now the hearings were originally meant to poll the people to say yes or no on medical marijuana use only. Voters could have been asked simple questions about marijuana use and if they preferred full legalization in a poll. But it took a Senate hearings just to open the door on marijuana use and we are still guessing as to what the majority wants. I’m also trying to educate on the need for a moratorium because the Senate hearings cannot educate and poll everyone on marijuana use, the newspapers can’t educate and poll everyone either because they only print around 3,000 copies a day when we have 18,000 voters. A moratorium period and/or a voter polling system could educate every voter and we could get real empirical and certified results on what the majority of people want instead of relying on the coconut wire results and building our CNMI with a machete.

To put it simply, if every voter were able to go online using their voter PIN number and vote on questions, we could get a lot of “certified questions answered and a lot more work done” as to what the majority wants in a very short time. A polling system is a scientific tool that can be used by our politicians and voters of the CNMI to help us have a more responsive and accountable government for the people. The Open Government Act places a check on our government and leaders to show us what they are doing but a polling system places a check mate on our government and leaders as they must do what the majority dictates in the polling results or face the potential of being fired—it is really that simple. A voter polling system could be run possibly by the Board of Elections. Technology can save us a lot of time and headaches, make our government more efficient, and make our economy and life a lot better. So leaders, please purchase this relatively inexpensive modern software tool for the CNMI to be installed at the Board of Elections for our Legislature to submit questions to the people they work for. A voter polling system is a simple answer to many complex questions. It is worth every penny of the investment to modernize the politics of the CNMI!

Ambrose M. Bennett
Kagman, Saipan

Ambrose M. Bennett Dayao
This post is published under the Contributing Author. He/she does not normally work for Saipan Tribune but contributes for a specific topic or series.

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