Off-island voters dismayed with late arrival of ballots


While the Commonwealth Election Commission will have until Dec. 5 to collect absentee ballots of off-island voters to officially declare the winner of the runoff election, one thing is already known—a number of absentee voters weren’t able to vote after they didn’t get their absentee ballots before the Nov. 21 deadline to send them back to the Commonwealth.

One such absentee voter is Gus Litulumar, who currently resides in San Diego, California, but was assigned by the State Department to a Southeast Asian country during the election.

“It’s disgusting! CEC and [the Legislature] could have amended the law and given more time for all absentee ballots to return. A lot of us registered voters living abroad expected our absentee ballots to be on time,” he said in a social media message to Saipan Tribune.

Litulumar said he knows of 12 other absentee voters who didn’t get their ballots on time. “But I believe there are more than that.”

Joseph “Joe” Salas and his wife, Cathy, also weren’t able to receive their absentee ballots on time.

“I didn’t get my absentee ballot at all. It’s so disappointing,” said Joe, who has become a sort of local celebrity in Boise, Idaho after surviving six days lost in the wilderness recently.

Cathy was more articulate in her disappointment. “I only got mine a day after deadline while Joe got it the day after. We voted during the general election but absentee ballots for the runoff didn’t come on time. I’m disappointed because that is our civic right but we weren’t afforded that opportunity,” she said.

David Atalig was fortunate enough to get his on time but he is still fuming that he had to go through all the trouble just to exercise his right to vote.

“I got it at around 5:30pm [on Nov. 21] when the airman came and had to run to the post office to get it mailed. It was closed at 5pm and I had to drive to the back of the post office and asked them if they could please just postmark the envelope. Stressful! I heard a lot of people did not get theirs too,” he also wrote on social media to Saipan Tribune.

CEC executive director Robert A. Guerrero was apologetic to absentee voters who didn’t get their packets on time and asked for their understanding because the U.S. Postal Service is working double time this time of year.

“I don’t know what happened to the postal system and I’m not even going to blame the U.S. Postal Service. It’s the holiday season and everyone knows that during the holiday season, it’s very hectic.”

While there have been appeals that CEC extend the 14-day wait for the return of absentee ballots, Guerrero said he will leave it up to the Legislature to amend the law.

“Fixing the law, it’s up to the Legislature and not up to us. The commission is just following what’s in the law. I know there have been talks that they wish Robert can extend the 14-day beyond that and this and that. But everything is set by law and the commission is just following the law. It’s not Robert’s law and it’s not the commission’s law. It’s what the Legislature passed and we’re just following the law.”

Guerrero earlier said that CEC sent out the over 2,000 absentee ballots on Nov. 10 and that USPS airmailed them the next day on Nov. 11.

The Nov. 21 runoff resulted in the NMI Republican Party tandem of Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Senate President Ralph DLG. Torres (R-Saipan) amassing a 1,599-vote lead against the independent pair of former speaker Heinz S. Hofschneider and former Senate floor leader Ray N. Yumul.

GOP campaign manager Jason Osborne said the Hofschneider-Yumul need to get 87 percent of the absentee ballots to overtake Inos-Torres, which is mathematically impossible even if all 2,000-plus absentee ballots were received and returned.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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