604 of 1,668 absentee ballots sent not received
The Commonwealth Election Commission said that 12,919 votes, excluding the remaining absentee ballots, was the total number of votes cast during the Nov. 3 general elections and that all votes were counted.
CEC executive director Julita A. Villagomez also told Saipan Tribune yesterday that they sent out 1,668 absentee ballots and that they received 1,064.
Villagomez said they have not received 604 absentee ballots.
The ballots that are not received are 86 for Precinct 1; 23 for Precinct 2; 60 for Precinct 3; 39 for Precinct 4; 56 for Precinct 5; 125 for Precinct 6 (Tinian); and 215 for Precinct 7 (Rota).
Villagomez said the ballots that were rejected by the tabulating machines were given to the CEC commissioners for examination.
She said if the ballots were torn, they replaced it via reconstruction, where one person would be writing down the reconstructed votes, while another would read it.
“There’s nothing being rejected. They’re all corrected,” the executive director said, adding that only a few ballots were rejected by the machines and had to be manually inspected by the CEC commissioners.
She said they will be tabulating the last batch of absentee ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 17, because under the new election law, they have to wait for 14 days from election day for the arrival of absentee ballots.
Villagomez said all the remaining absentee ballots that arrived after Nov. 3 will be picked up on Tuesday afternoon at the closing of the U.S. Postal Service office. She said the ballots have to be postmarked by Nov. 2 for those coming from the U.S. mainland.
Villagomez said they will still receive those that are not postmarked Nov. 2, but these won’t be counted as they’re already beyond the deadline.
Villagomez said they are not expecting all 604 absentee ballots to make it to the deadline.
CEC commissioner Jesus I. Sablan earlier estimated that only 50 to 100 ballots may arrive by the Nov. 17 deadline.
The closest that is likely to change results is the battle for the last place in Precinct 3 between Rep. Ralph Yumul of the Republican Party and Corina Lorraine Magofna of the Democratic Party. Yumul has 1,230 votes so far, while Magofna has 1,195—a margin of just 35 votes.
It would still be difficult for Magofna to overcome Yumul as 60 is the total remaining absentee ballots for Precinct 3.
The other closest contest is for the Tinian House seat between Patrick Hofschneider San Nicolas of the Republican Party and Frederick Arend Dela Cruz of the Democratic Party. San Nicolas got 625 votes, while Dela Cruz received 579—a margin of 46.
CEC reminded those who failed to vote in two consecutive elections that they need to register again.
CEC started the registration again last Thursday, Nov. 5.
As of Oct. 7, there was a total of 18,519 registered voters in the CNMI. A total of 8,369 cast early votes in the Commonwealth.