With the elections happening in a little over three months, there still is no information as to how voting will be done in the CNMI, given the social distancing restrictions.
The Commonwealth Elections Commission also has yet to respond to the earlier concern of the Office of the Public Auditor about the accountability of used and unused ballots in the 2018 general elections. The OPA had found that the commission’s lack of standard process for the accounting of the ballots prevents CEC from identifying potential electoral fraud or irregularities.
On top of this, the commission also has yet to fill six vacant commissioner seats, especially with two of its commissioners’ terms having expired last Tuesday, leaving them without a quorum.
Lawmakers urged Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) at the House session last Thursday to call in the commission, as well as OPA, for questioning, and to give both agencies the floor to provide updates on the status of the OPA findings, and if actions have been made by the CEC to rectify the issues.
During the session, Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan) said that she had spoken to CEC executive director Julita Villagomez, who informed her that the commission is short-staffed, has infrastructure needs, and even did not have electricity last Thursday.
The commission is waiting for guidelines from health authorities on safely conducting the elections, and that Villagomez is willing to appear before the House, where the lawmakers can see “how we can better support the office, given that the election is less than four months away,” Babauta added.