With an election five months from now this November, Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) is calling on the Commonwealth Election Commission to take steps to prevent election fraud and implement the recommendations of the Office of the Public Auditor toward this end.
In a letter to CEC executive director Julie A. Villagomez dated June 10, 2020, Manglona urged the CEC to review the OPA conclusions and recommendations, make appropriate changes to prevent fraud, and instill voter confidence in the 2020 election.
According to the senator, the OPA report, which reviewed the CNMI election in 2018, reveals “great concerns” on the accountability of ballots, inventory, and the training of poll workers. “The 2020 election is fast approaching and the issues raised in the report must be addressed in totality to ensure that the same issues do not occur in the upcoming 2020 election,” said Manglona.
OPA released the report in January, highlighting CEC’s lack of accountability for the ballots received and available, and on the total ballots used and unused remain unresolved. OPA called CEC’s inability to account for the ballots “very concerning.” OPA also said that the lack of a standard process to account for all the ballots prevents the commission from identifying irregularities and potential fraud.
Manglona also noted that aside from not being able to account the total blank votes received, and the total number of ballots, accountability forms were also not provided to three polling sites and for the ballots given to Rota and Tinian commissioners for over-the-counter requests.
The CEC, according to the senator, must also update the absentee voters master list; and resolve issues concerning ballots cast by absentee applicants on election day as not being treated as absentee votes, and handwritten names on the voter roster not treated as provisional ballots.
“To ensure that the issues raised are addressed, CEC must review its procedures on inventory and accountability, conduct the appropriate training on the duties and responsibilities of the poll workers, and comply with all the election law provisions,” he added.
To resolve the issues it identified in the 2018 election, OPA recommended for CEC to adopt and implement policies and procedures that would ensure proper documentation of ballots received, distributed, spoiled, and unused, including a supervisory review over ballot accountability, among others.
OPA had its last interview with the commission in December, where the recommended processes remained unadopted. Based on the status report, OPA is set to conduct a follow-up this month, to see if CEC has implemented the recommendations.