The Commonwealth Election Commission would need $98,000 if they would send all absentee ballots by express mail to make it in time for the Nov. 8 elections. This is why they are recommending an extension on the procedure and deadline for this.
CEC chair Frances M. Sablan said yesterday that they would start sending out the absentee ballots. She said they ordered 21,000 ballots with 1,564 applying for the absentee voting process. There are about 17,000 registered voters in the CNMI.
“There are still some steps that we need to do. First, we need to have [the Office of the Public Auditor] do the inventory and we need to pay for the metered stamps. Then we can send them out,” said Sablan after yesterday’s meeting with senators at the Senate chamber.
“But for right now, express mail is very expensive. That’s why we recommend that we have the extension at least for this election. It is going to cost us $98,000 to expedite the process of sending the ballots, $49,000 to send it, and for them to send it back,” added Sablan, who was accompanied by CEC executive director Julita A. Villagomez and deputy attorney general Lilian Tenorio.
She believes there’s ample time for the absentee ballots to return to Saipan in time for the counting. “I’m thinking there’s ample time but the senators think otherwise. That’s why they are asking if the extension is something that we recommend. And we support the bill to extend the deadline.”
Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro (R-Saipan) introduced House Bill 19-204 that would allow an extension of the deadline for all absentee ballots.
All absentee ballots must be received on or before the day of the election.
Sending the absentee ballots by mail is already late, with voters having not enough time to receive and send it before the Nov. 8 general election.
HB 19-204 wants the deadline to be suspended and is proposing a 10-day extension in order for the absentee ballots to be included in the counting after Nov. 8.
All reply envelopes shall be deposited in a locked ballot box until processed by the CEC for counting.
In other news, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had sworn in Joseph Santos as Tinian representative to the CEC last week while the Senate yesterday confirmed the reappointment of Donald Hofschneider as board member. Roman M. Tudela Jr. was also confirmed as the resident executive director for Office of Indigenous Affairs.