No CEC commissioner wants to serve as board chair

As of yesterday, 18,374 registered voters in the CNMI

Commonwealth Election Commission board chair Jesus I. Sablan presides over their board meeting in the CEC’s conference room in Susupe yesterday afternoon. Also in the photo from left are board vice chair Dorisann Aldan-Atalig, commissioner Jesus Cepeda, CEC executive director Kayla Igitol, and CEC counsel assistant attorney general Charles Reyes. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

It appears that no Commonwealth Election Commission commissioner is interested to serve as board chairman to replace the post of long-time chair Jesus I. Sablan, whose term is expiring on July 21.

At CEC board meeting yesterday at the CEC conference room in Susupe, Sablan, 74, disclosed that he, through CEC executive director Kayla Igitol, has already informed Gov. Ralph DLG Torres that he won’t be accepting any re-appointment to the post for personal reasons.

Sablan has been a CEC commissioner for 15 years. The CEC board last elected Sablan in August 2020 as chairman, a position that he has been holding since 2018.

At yesterday’s CEC board meeting, Sablan said they need to elect new officers. There was a moment of silence as no one made a nomination.

Vice chair Dorisann Aldan-Atalig, who represents Saipan and the Northern Islands, then nominated commissioner John Attao from Tinian to serve as chairman.

Attao declined, prompting Aldan-Atalig to nominate Police Lt. Jesus S. Cepeda, who also declined. The Senate just confirmed Cepeda as CEC commissioner in May.

Commissioners Esther Yatar and Lelanie Manglona, who are from Rota, joined the meeting virtually. They pointed out that the chair, just like the executive director, should be from Saipan so that if there is an emergency, he or she is readily available.

Aldan-Atalig was subsequently nominated, but she too declined, citing she is currently undergoing medical treatment. Aldan-Atalig said she just got back from her treatment and that she has one more year of treatment to go.

“I just cannot commit to serve as chair at this point,” she said.
Aldan-Atalig requested Sablan to reconsider his decision if he gets re-appointed.
Sablan said he has a couple of days more as commissioner, and that he will talk with his wife to make a final decision.

Sablan recommended to table or postpone consideration of the election of officers to their next board meeting. All other commissioners agreed.

Meanwhile, Igitol informed the board about the result of their registration drive on Saipan for the month of June, and the coming registration drive on Tinian and Rota this July.

Igitol disclosed that, as of yesterday, there were 14,926 registered voters on Saipan and Northern Islands; 1,646 on Tinian; and 1,802 on Rota, for a total of 18,374 registered voters in the CNMI.

The executive director reminded the candidates for this Nov. 8 election that July 11 is the first date to submit their petition for nomination, and the deadline is Aug. 10.

“If candidates have a certain date that they want to come in and file a petition, they may just call in. Our number (670) 235-8683 to reserve their time and date, so we can block it for them,” Igitol said.

She said a party can organize such that all their candidates can come in and submit at the same day, but the time will be staggered.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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