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AFTER OVERSEEING ELECTIONS POST-YUTU, AMID PANDEMIC

CEC chief plans to retire after this election is over

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Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Julita A. Villagomez is going to retire when everything is over with this year’s general election.

Villagomez confirmed yesterday with Saipan Tribune that, as soon as they close this year’s election, she’s leaving CEC, where she has worked for over 30 years.

“I love my job,” said the teary-eyed Villagomez when asked how she feels about leaving CEC, just soon after the completion of the tabulation of ballots at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe early Wednesday morning.

Villagomez said she is confident that even without her, the CEC will be fine as the staff are well trained with what they’ve been through.

The November 2018 general elections was very challenging to Villagomez and staff as it was done a month after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the CNMI. This year, the battle-tested Villagomez and staff faced an equally difficult job of overseeing an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

For this year’s elections, Villagomez said they’re just waiting for the arrival of the remaining absentee ballots on Nov. 11 to complete the process.

She said the election went pretty smooth.

Julita A. Villagomez

“It’s a lot faster than before,” she said, adding that the two newly purchased tabulating machines were a great help.

Villagomez said they only had minor issues. “[Just] a little complaint, just like when people were displaced from the typhoon and they thought they’d get automatically transferred to a certain precinct,” she said, adding that such complaints were immediately corrected.

Villagomez said that what delayed the tabulation was when the machines spat out some ballots and then the commissioners had to go through with each one and make a decision.

Although she has not seen the actual figures, Villagomez said the election’s turnout looks good to her. Just from the early voting, there were over 8,000 voters, she noted.

Villagomez started serving as CEC executive director in 2014. In September 2016, the CEC board unanimously appointed her as executive director.

Villagomez first worked at CEC as an administrative assistant in 1988, then she became an administrative officer.

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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