CEC denies request of Palacios-Apatang’s team for their poll workers to participate

CEC: Independent team may coordinate with any of 2 recognized political parties to submit recommended names of poll workers

Kayla S. Igitol

The Commonwealth Election Commission has denied the request of the team of Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and his running mate, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, to allow their poll workers, poll supervisors, and poll observers to participate in the Nov. 25 runoff election.

This developed as CEC prepared yesterday all packages for the absentee voters, while an Office of the Public Auditor staff verified those packages.

CEC executive director Kayla S. Igitol disclosed yesterday that they’re just going to stick with the election law that states that they need to get their poll workers listing from the two recognized parties—the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Igitol said the unified independent team of Palacios-Apatang is not a recognized political party and that CEC sent a notice Monday about their decision to Oscar Babauta, who chairs the executive committee of Palacios-Apatang.

At the CEC board special meeting Friday, Babauta and lawyer Michael Evangelista told the board that the unified independent team should be allowed to submit names from their side to be part of the election process in each polling place—poll workers, poll supervisors, and observers—to protect the integrity of the electoral process.

In her letter to Babauta Monday, Igitol said that Palacios and Apatang are not statutorily authorized to submit a recommended list of poll workers for consideration under the Commonwealth Code because they are not from a fully recognized political party.

Igitol said the Commonwealth Code states that “the executive director shall employ poll workers and poll supervisors necessary to conduct elections and administer the commission’s other duties and responsibilities.”

The statute further states that “such employees shall be hired from lists of individuals recommended by the recognized political parties in such a manner as to ensure a fair representation of all recognized political parties in the total cohort. All such employees shall receive training and certification in procedures, ethics, tasks, and responsibilities prior to being assigned any duties.”

Thus, Igitol said, based on the statute, the CEC will only employ poll workers recommended by a recognized political party, such as the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

Babauta, however, is welcome to coordinate with one of those recognized political parties to submit recommended names of poll workers for the runoff election, “until such time that the statute is amended to include non-recognized political parties or independent, non-affiliated candidates,” she added.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his running mate, Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan), of the Republican Party, topped the Nov. 8 general elections, but failed to gain a majority, paving the way for the Nov. 25 runoff race between Torres-Sablan, and Palacios-Apatang.

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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