Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) emphasized yesterday the need for the Commonwealth Election Commission to look into the absentee voting process, claiming that he knows of some people that have never been in the CNMI yet were allowed to vote in the past elections.
Speaking during the Senate Executive Appointments and Governmental Investigations’ public hearing on the appointment of Police Lt. Jesus S. Cepeda to serve as a CEC commissioner representing Saipan, Hocog urged Cepeda and other election commissioners to look into the absentee process for the coming Nov. 8 general election.
He said that some of these absentee voters have “never [been here; not even once. This is a very serious situation that people are experiencing here.”
Hocog, who is the vice chairman of the Senate EAGI Committee, said he wants to see that people that exercise their voting right in their senatorial districts speak loudly and not those people that are staying outside the Commonwealth that are overriding people’s decisions.
“Let me say this. For those people that are given the right to continue to vote outside the CNMI, they are not suffering like the people that are staying here and voting for change,” Hocog said.
The senator asked CEC to consider putting the matter on their agenda at their next board meeting.
Hocog said the CEC should look into the continuous residency and domiciliary requirements, whether those people should be given continuous rights to vote when they have abandoned their domiciliary and residency in the CNMI.
He said it is unfair that people who are staying and experiencing the difficulties in their senatorial districts and exercising their right to vote are being trumped by people residing outside the Commonwealth that have never expressed an interest to return.
Hocog said these absentee voters have been receiving all kinds of federal assistance from the state where they live.
“…In my opinion [this] is very unfair,” he said.
Hocog extended his appreciation to Cepeda for accepting Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres’ appointment to serve as election commissioner.
Hocog said he is confident that with his 26 years of experience at DPS, Cepeda will make decisions responsibly and will do the right thing in the right way.
Cepeda said that serving as an election commissioner will be new to him, but with the guidance of CEC officials and staff, he wants to do his best for the best interest of the commission and the public.
CEC supported Cepeda’s appointment. No one opposed his appointment.
If Cepeda is confirmed by the Senate, there will be three commissioners representing Saipan, two Rota commissioners and one Tinian commissioner.
CEC executive director Kayla Igitol said with five commissioners at present there is a quorum.
Igitol said there are two more vacant commissioner’s positions for Saipan and one for Tinian.