‘Sequester ballots for Article 12 initiative’

OAG also seeks delay in tabulation of Article 12 initiative votes pending appeal in Davis’ lawsuit

The Commonwealth Election Commission and its officials, along with Gov. Eloy S. Inos, asked the federal court yesterday to delay the tabulation and certification of votes cast for the Article 12 initiative and sequester the ballots pending the disposition of their appeal.

Assistant attorney general Charles E. Brasington filed a motion for sequestration on behalf of CEC, chairperson Frances M. Sablan, executive director Robert A. Guerrero, and Inos.

Brasington argued that tabulating and certifying the votes prior to the disposition of defendants’ appeal will set in motion actions that will be difficult to undo if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reverses the federal court’s decision on who could vote on the Article 12 initiative.

Brasington also filed yesterday an emergency motion to expedite the request for sequestration of the ballots pending their appeal.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the emergency motion and set a hearing on the issue on Oct. 29 at 2pm. She allowed the defendants to file the motion for sequestration yesterday and gave John D. Davis up to Oct. 22 to oppose.

Manglona said a decision on the motion for sequestration is needed by Nov. 3, 2014, in order for any relief the court may grant to be effective.

Davis, a registered voter in the CNMI and a non-Northern Marianas descent, sued CEC and its officials in his desire to vote on any initiative to amend Article 12. Manglona ruled in favor of Davis.

In that landmark decision, Manglona ruled that qualified voters who are not of Northern Marianas descents must have the opportunity to vote on the Article 12 initiative and any other initiatives to amend Article 12.

Article 12 restricts the ownership of land in the CNMI to persons of Northern Marianas descent.

The defendants appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his declaration to support the emergency motion, Brasington said action is required on or before Nov. 2, 2014, to avoid irreparable harm as CEC will begin tabulating votes after the polls close on Nov. 4, 2014.

Brasington said their motion seeks to stop the tabulation of ballots of House Legislative Initiative 18-1 and to sequester the ballots pending resolution of their appeal in this case.

House Legislative Initiative 18-1 is a proposed amendment to Article 12.

Brasington said the defendants first filed their motion for sequestration in the Ninth Circuit last Oct. 10, but the Ninth Circuit rejected the motion yesterday and indicated that they should file the motion in the District Court.

In the motion for sequestration, Brasington said the Commonwealth believes it is fairest to all citizens to allow all registered voters to cast a ballot on H.L. I. 18-1, but then postpone the tabulation of the votes on that initiative until the appeal is resolved.

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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