How will the CNMI vote?

Posted on Jun 22 2020


With just a little more than five months before the November elections, more and more politicians are now demanding to know how the Commonwealth Elections Commission has addressed issues concerning the lack of ballot accountability in the 2018 elections, as uncovered by the Office of the Public Auditor, and how the upcoming elections will be conducted, given the pandemic.

An OPA report last January tagged CEC’s lack of accountability on the number of ballots received and available, and on used and unused ballots, and that CEC’s lack of process to account for all the ballots received prevented the commission from identifying potential election fraud or irregularities.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) said in early June that CNMI voters have a right to know what CEC did to correct the OPA findings. He also questioned what measures CEC is putting in place for this year’s elections, and expressed disappointment with the CEC website being outdated.

“What measures are being put in place in case of a second wave or a breakout of COVID-19 cases right before the election? Are mail-in ballots being considered? If so, how will the CEC ensure they are safeguarded? We have heard nothing from the CEC,” he said.

Separately, Sens. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) and Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) wrote CEC about these matters, with Manglona calling on the commission to take steps to prevent election fraud and to implement the OPA recommendations. Igisomar asked for CEC’s action plan for the November election.

To address election concerns during the pandemic, some states in the U.S. are opting for mail-in ballots, where voters can cast in their votes by mail, or conduct early voting, allowing more time period for voting, to prevent people from crowding at a precinct on the actual election day.

At the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation last Thursday, Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) expressed concerns over the lack of quorum at CEC and some vitally-needed resources to get the election processes, and the November election going.

“Unfortunately, there remain serious discrepancies that were identified by the [OPA] from the last election, which the [commission] has yet to resolve,” she said. “The urgency cannot be understated at this time. It’s June. The election is a few months away. The integrity of our elections and public confidence in this process are so essential to our democracy. We really need to get some answers from the CEC.”

At the same SNILD session, Sen. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said that the Senate is currently awaiting nominations from Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to complete the Elections Commission board.

“It’s a nomination from the governor to send out to the Senate so that that person may go through the Executive Appointments and Government Investigation process. [EAGI chair Sen. Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian)] is awaiting that nomination and is willing to expedite the hearings and the process,” said Sablan.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), in an interview Thursday, stressed that it is critical to have a transparent election this November, and highlighted the crucial role the media has to ensure this.

“The media is important. The media is critical to an open election. Nobody can come and approach the machine, but they’re in a space where they will see exactly everything. The media is critical for transparency,” he said.

Last April, the delegate announced that the Commonwealth will receive an estimated $600,000 of the CARES Act funding to ensure that the Nov. 3 election will push through in the Marianas during the COVID-19 crisis.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at

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