Stay-away law stymies media coverage


A law that dictates the minimum distance non-voting individuals have to be from a polling station is silent on how it applies to the media—a lack that proved problematic at a polling station in Garapan last Tuesday, particularly since it created a minor misunderstanding between the Office of the Attorney General and the media.

Reporters were directed to stay at least 300 feet away from the Garapan Roundhouse at the Garapan Central Park, despite displaying their Commonwealth Election Commission-issued media passes.

An OAG representative assigned to the Garapan Roundhouse asserted that the statute includes the media, as he showed Saipan Tribune a group discussion of OAG higher-ups directing representatives to include media personnel.

In a phone call to the OAG around 9:49am, it was learned that the rule was the result of the structure of the Garapan Roundhouse, which housed the polls.

The OAG representative at the Garapan Roundhouse noted that it was the first time to ever use the facility for an election and the facility is not enclosed and poses a possible problem since voters were visible at a certain angle.

Around 10:40am Tuesday, assistant attorney general Charles Brasington arrived to clarify the issue. He noted that, as long as the media stays within the entrance area, there would be no issue.

Brasington further reiterated that taking pictures of ballots and people voting were prohibited.

According to poll staff at the Garapan Roundhouse, 1,521 voters cast their votes in the facility from 8am to 2pm.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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