Torres, Sablan concede

2,139 absentee ballots sent; only 315 back and counted so far

Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and his running mate, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, of the unified independent team, shake hands during an earlier press briefing. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

With Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and his running mate, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, of the unified independent team, enjoying a commanding 1,060-vote lead in the runoff election based on the Commonwealth Election Commission’s unofficial tabulation results, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his running mate, Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan, of the Republican Party, conceded defeat yesterday and declared that it’s time to heal and come together. (See related sidebar)

In a joint statement with Sablan last night, Torres said he has spoken with governor-elect Palacios over the weekend and that they “shared a good, honest, and lighthearted conversation about their campaign, their relationship, and the path forward for the Commonwealth.”

“He and lieutenant governor-elect David Apatang ran a hard campaign, but through it all, come January when Gov. Palacios takes his oath of office, he will be my governor and I will give him the respect both he and the position deserves,” Torres said.

To Palacios and Apatang, Torres said he has the utmost respect for both of them and wish them the best of luck during their tenure as governor and lieutenant governor.

Sablan said it has been quite a journey, but nonetheless, the work must go on, and they must continue to do great things for the people and the Commonwealth. “This campaign season has come to an end, and it is now time heal and come together to rebuild the relationships that may have been broken,” the senator said.

Palacios and Apatang ended with 838 votes behind Torres and Sablan during the Nov. 8 general elections, but they came galloping through the runoff election Friday by posting a commanding 1,060 lead based on CEC’s unofficial tabulation results. With only some absentee votes remaining to be counted on Dec. 9, it’s mathematically improbable for the Torres-Sablan to catch up.

According to CEC unofficial tabulations results, Palacios-Apatang garnered a total of 7,077 votes, or 54.05% of the total votes counted, while Torres-Sablan received a total of 6,017 votes, or 45.95%.

CEC executive director Kayla S. Igitol, in an interview shortly after they completed the manual counting of votes early Saturday morning, disclosed that they sent 2,139 absentee ballots and that 315 have already been returned and tabulated.

Igitol said the CEC board will have to wait on Dec. 9 when they will count the remaining absentee votes that should be postmarked Nov. 25, Saipan time, to certify the tabulation results. She said they have no estimate as to how many votes will come back with Nov. 25 postmarked on or before Dec. 9.

Igitol said it was a smooth runoff election as they did not have major issues, except when some supporters were not complying with the 300-foot distance from the polling site.

“But other than that, there were no major issues,” she said.

It was a thrilling runoff election as Igitol first announced Friday at 11:45pm the unofficial tabulation results of the early voting on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, in which Torres-Sablan received 3,698 votes, while Palacios-Apatang obtained 3,219 votes.

Torres-Sablan’s 479 lead, however, was whittled down as the unofficial tabulations results from the runoff election day were announced.

Palacios-Apatang first tasted the lead (129 votes) after they obtained 325 votes from Precinct 2 runoff election day, while Torres-Sablan got 155.

Palacios-Apatang’s lead further widened as more runoff election day results were counted. Palacios-Apatang’s lead reached 1,078 after they received 691 votes from Precinct 5 runoff election day, while Torres-Sablan got 430.

Torres-Sablan then cut Palacios-Sablan’s lead to 1,023 after garnering 110 votes from Tinian runoff election day. Palacios-Apatang obtained only 55 votes.

At 5:02am Saturday, Igitol announced the last being tabulated—278 absentee votes. Torres-Sablan garnered 140 votes, while Palacios-Apatang got 138. Palacios-Apatang would now enjoy a commanding 1,060 lead.

Based on the unofficial CEC tabulation results, Palacios-Apatang won on runoff election day from Precincts 1A, IB, 1C, Precinct 2, Precinct 3A, Precinct 3B, Precinct 4A, Precinct 4B, Precinct 4C, Precinct 5, and Precinct 7 (Rota).

Torres-Sablan prevailed only on runoff election day from Precinct 4D (Northern Islands), Precinct 6 (Tinian), early voting, and absentee voting.

In the previous two runoff elections in the CNMI, it was always the incumbent who prevails as defeated gubernatorial candidates would endorse the sitting governors. In this year’s runoff race, it’s a different story as defeated Democratic Party’s gubernatorial bets, Reps. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) and Leila F. Staffler (D-Saipan), who garnered 4,132 total votes, or 28.01%, in the Nov. 8 general elections, immediately conceded and endorsed Palacios-Apatang, both veteran politicians who carry a campaign theme of “Rebuilding Trust.”

As of 4:30pm, Friday, CEC staff started processing the first two batches of absentee votes at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

At 7:45pm Friday, two school buses transporting ballot boxes from all precincts on Saipan, except Precinct 2, arrived at the multi-purpose center.

The ballots from Precinct 2 were not transported in a bus as the polling place is the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, which is a stone’s throw from the tabulation center, Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center.

At 9:15pm Friday, Igitol said the panel of tabulators has started sorting and counting the early voting for Saipan.

Many voters started casting their votes Friday between 10am and 11am.

At Dandan School, 55 and 62 Precinct 1B2 voters cast their votes at 10am and at 11am, respectively. At Joeten Kiyu Library, 50 and 52 Precinct 2 voters cast their votes at 10am and 11am, respectively.

Near the polling sites, supporters of both Palacios-Apatang and Torres-Sablan were waving at motorists and voters from 7am to closing time at 7pm.

Other supporters were dancing as both camps played loud music in their tents. Supporters also held motorcade and honked loudly as they passed near polling places.

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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