CEC board to ask DOC to inspect armory where ballots will be stored


The Commonwealth Election Commission board agreed Monday to ask the Department of Corrections to allow an inspection of DOC’s armory room where ballots for the Nov. 8 election will be stored.

All five CEC commissioners present during the board meeting at CEC’s conference room in Susupe voted “yes” to a motion to request for an inspection of DOC’s armory room.

CEC board chair Jesus I. Sablan said the specific date of the inspection will be set at their next board meeting.

CEC executive director Kayla S. Igitol said yesterday that Sablan approved a request submitted to the board by the Committee-to-Elect Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang to allow their gubernatorial candidates to inspect DOC’s armory room.

Igitol said CEC will now request DOC Commissioner Wally Villagomez to give access to the inspection.
She said it has not been determined whether Palacios and Apatang or their committee, or CEC commissioners and CEC staff will do the inspection.

During Monday’s discussions about the inspection request, Igitol disclosed that she received the email request last July 25 from the Palacios’ committee-to-elect. Palacios and Apatang are running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, under a unified independent team.

Igitol said the committee’s concern was about the closed-circuit television cameras at DOC as apparently DOC Commissioner Wally Villagomez mentioned during a budget hearing before the House of Representatives that their CCTVs were down.

“So their concern was the early voting ballot boxes that will be stored at DOC,” she said.
Igitol said, she, however, did inspect the DOC’s armory room last Aug. 4 and that she found that the cameras are operational. She said she was also allowed to go into the main control and that the camera there was also in operation.

Igitol said the unified independent team’s representative just want the gubernatorial candidates to be able to inspect the armory room as well as the main control room.

“But I don’t know if that request from their end will be approved because security comes into question there. But the board needs to approve that request. And then we can move forward with requesting DOC to see if the armory room is secure and the CCTVs are in operation,” she said.

Sablan said the security camera issue was also brought to his attention during the Senate’s confirmation hearing on his re-appointment as commissioner.

Sablan said Sen. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) stated that Villagomez had mentioned during a budget hearing about some cameras at DOC not being functional. He said that, according to Igitol, the cameras are now functioning. The chairman said they want to make sure that the cameras are in operation come election day; otherwise they will have a big problem.

Sablan said he also asked Igitol to look into an alternate site where to store the ballots in case DOC is not feasible. He said they don’t want to wait until the last minute to decide where to find an alternate site where they can store the ballots where it is safe and secure.

Igitol said she believes the unified independent team specifically asked for only the gubernatorial candidates to inspect because if all 99 candidates to come in, they will not get such approval from DOC.

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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