People already prepared for possible runoff
Thousands made their voices heard in yesterday’s peaceful general elections and special election for a third Saipan senatorial seat, but voters are already prepared to return to polling stations in the face of the strong possibility of a runoff gubernatorial race.
With a record-breaking 17,986 registered voters in the CNMI, this year’s elections is believed to be the biggest in the Commonwealth history. As of press time, the final number of actual voters was not available yet.
Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero said there were some glitches, but the elections went pretty well for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Guerrero told Saipan Tribune at 7:30 last night that, as of 5:47pm, the total number of voters was 6,464.
Guerrero said that Hopwood had 373 who voted; Koblerville had 460; Dandan, 889; Joeten-Kiyu Library, 514; San Jose, 365; Garapan, 852; Tanapag, 367; San Roque, 325; Legislature, 305; Kagman, 980; Tinian, 621; and Rota, 413.
Guerrero said roughly 2,400 absentee ballots came in but some are currently being reviewed whether to reject them or not as they don’t have affidavits and are not properly packed.
For the Northern Islands, the boat carrying six to eight votes arrived on island at 5pm.
Police Sgt. Jose Saures, the assigned police commander of the elections, said he is very happy that everything was peaceful.
Saures said there were some challenges such as campaigns signs posted inside the 300-feet keep-off distance from polling places. He said they took down some signs in Garapan, Kagman and Ada Gym.
“I’m very thankful to our people for coming out and expressing their rights to vote peacefully,” Saures said.
Voters elected the governor, the lieutenant governor, delegate to the U.S. Congress, the attorney general, senators, House of Representatives members, mayors, municipal councilors, and Board of Education members. They also voted whether to retain or not on the bench Associate Justice John A. Manglona, Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja, and Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo.
Voters were also presented with three proposed changes to the CNMI Constitution.
Polling stations opened at exactly 7am and closed at 7pm.
At 7pm, there was still a long line of voters at Garapan Elementary School.
A woman residing on Navy Hill was visibly upset after learning that her name is in Dandan. She said she could not make it to Dandan as it was already 7pm then.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos (Rep) voted early at 7:33am in Kagman. His running mate, Ralph DLG. Torres, voted in San Vicente.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Heinz Hofschneider and running mate Ray N. Yumul, accompanied by their wives, walked together to the Garapan Elementary School to cast their vote at 6pm.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Juan N. Babauta voted at Garapan Elementary School past 10am. His running mate, Juan S. Torres, voted in Dandan.
The Democratic gubernatorial tandem of Edward M. Deleon Guerrero and Daniel O. Quitugua opted to vote early on Monday at the Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.
Former governor Benigno R. Fitial walked in with a cane with his wife, Josefina, beside him when he voted late afternoon in Garapan.
Fitial declined to disclose who he voted for as governor. He added that he is not sure if he could still return to the polling station if there is a gubernatorial runoff because he is leaving again this week for the Philippines for his continued medical rehabilitation.
When asked what the game plan is in case of a runoff election, Hofschneider said the strategy does not change.
“I think it’s just reaching out to more people, especially to the group that does not make to the runoff,” Hofschneider said. “That’s really where the bulk of the votes we should be going after.”
Former Superior Court presiding judge Edward Manibusan was with his wife, Delfina, at Dandan Middle School to cast their vote as early as 7:45am.
Manibusan said they decided to vote early because it’s a beautiful day and there was no rain then.
Asked if he will go back to the polling place if there is a gubernatorial runoff, the former judge said he will surely do because people should continue to exercise their rights.
“I encourage everyone to vote,” said Manibusan, whose candidacy for the first elected attorney general position is being challenged by attorney Michael Norita Evangelista.
Evangelista himself is very sure that he will vote if there is a gubernatorial runoff, saying he wants his vote counted so his governor bet will win.
Lorenzo LG. Cabrera was among the early birds at Dandan Middle School. At 7:30am he was done.
Cabrera said he had to go early to vote so he could ask election officers to come to their house so his wife can avail of the confinement voting process.
Cabrera said his wife stays at home because she can’t stand up due to a minor accident. He said he was told that election officers will go to their house so his wife can vote in the afternoon yesterday.
When asked if he will return to the polling station if there is a gubernatorial runoff, Cabrera was quick to say “yes.”
“I am a good citizen,” he said, adding that good citizens should exercise their right to vote.
Winifreda Borja, 70, a retired Commonwealth Ports Authority employee, was done voting as early as 7:30am when there was no crowding yet at Dandan Middle School.
“It was smooth, well-organized,” said Borja. She came early to avoid crowds and so she can do all her chores.
Seen in front of Dandan Middle School’s main gate early morning was Saipan mayoral candidate David Mundo Apatang, who waved and greeted voters coming in and out of the school compound. Beside him was independent Rep. Antonio Pangelinan Sablan and some supporters. Sablan is seeking re-election.
It was lively in front of Hopwood as some party supporters danced to loud music while waving to motorists and voters coming in and out of the school gate.
The large number of voters started coming in at 8am. Before noon it drizzled in some areas on the island, resulting in a slowdown in the flow of voters.
At Hopwood, as of 1pm, 231 voted out of over 800 voters in that precinct.