‘Turnout kind of low’


The turnout for the last Tuesday’s 2016 general election was “kind of low,” according to Commonwealth Election Commission board chair Frances Sablan.

Out of 17,930 registered voters, only 10,993 voted, which comes out at 61.31 percent participation. The tallied votes already includes early votes cast during the weeklong early voting period, according to Sablan.

The 10,993 total, however, doesn’t include the 1,699 absentee vote forms sents out. Sablan said that only 984 have so far been sent back.

Sablan expects to add a few hundred more votes into the overall count, setting the participation percentage a little higher than 61.31 percent.

“We are anticipating about a 66-percent to 70-percent turnout. We usually get a 70 to 80 percent turnout, so it’s kind of low. We’re hopeful that about 500 to 600 more absentee ballots will come in so that it would bring up the percentage,” said Sablan.

Sablan added that the number of rejected votes due to voter error could not be specified.

“I know that although some of the votes weren’t necessarily rejected in its entirety, there were some races that voters left blank. …I saw over votes on almost all of the races,” said Sablan.

She predicts that rejected votes will continue increasing with the absentee votes. Votes were rejected because some voters did not follow directions, such as properly inserting the affidavit into its proper envelopes.

“There were only certain races that did not count because there was an overvote. I know the rejection part is going to be more prevalent when we start processing the absentees. I am already seeing some that we processed,” she said.

“[Some] voters did not follow instructions. The instructions are when you complete the affidavit, you put it inside the outer envelope and outside the ballot envelope. We have some already that put the affidavit inside the inner envelope, which is the ballot envelope, and makes it exposed. Some did not put the ballot in the inner envelope, they put it inside the outer envelope, and that’s an exposed ballot, so that would be rejected,” said Sablan.

Delays in tabulation

Tabulation of votes did not start until 9pm. Sablan shared that with the addition of new assistant attorney general Michael Witry, certain methodologies had to be altered due to different interpretations.

“Interpretations for different attorneys differ, so we had to listen to our legal counsel and take his advice. His advice was to do our methodology a certain way. That meant that we do not discuss to reconcile, we use paper and pen, and that’s how we communicated so that no one person overcomes the other. I served as the commissioner that went around and collected what they wrote. If it was a majority then that’s the direction that we would go. That process was a long drawn process,” said Sablan, referring to the cause of the delay.

Despit the delay in tabulation, the tabulation process went swiftly, shared Sablan.

“After we processed about two-thirds of the early votes, that’s when the AAG decided to reconsider and have us go back to our more recent methodology, which is to split up the commissioners and have us deal with and reconcile simultaneously different precincts,” she said.

“That’s what sped up the process, and that’s why we are ending earlier than later today,” Sablan added.

The tabulation process was officially completed at around 5am, which also already included the reports that the CEC had to make on their side. Sablan shared that the tabulation committee wanted to start as soon as possible, but due to certain laws, it had to be delayed for quite a bit.

“We wanted to start tabulating at 7:30pm when we were supposed to convene as tabulation committee, but we had some setbacks. We had to wait for observers to come in because by law, we were required to have two Democratic observers, two Republican observers and at least one independent. We had to round them up at first so we had to make sure we had all of our stuff in place,” said Sablan.

Sablan, however, can’t help but feel frustrated because of all the delays.

“Although we tried to put and change our laws, amend them, we tried to make sure we had the best machinery that our money can buy and the technicians, and we try to have a full board, although it’s not 100 percent full, but at least we have decorum,” said Sablan.

Sablan has accepted that the presence of setback is something that can’t be helped.

“There will always be a setback, and that is a frustration that I face. The more hopeful that we would have a more speedy process in tabulation, there is always something that gets thrown in there that is always going to set us back,” she said.

“What I’m alluding to is that whenever we have to try out different interpretations, follow different authority’s perspective and their interpretations, it’s difficult for me as a chairman to have to keep changing, because that is what we [keep] having to do. It’s frustrating for us and I know it’s frustrating for the community because they’re thinking the chairwoman has been there for 20 years, so there has to be some stability, there has to be some progress, but there is always something that comes up, like new people we have to work with such as new board, new commissioners, new directors, and different interpretations,” she added.

The final result of the 2016 general elections will be known when the absentee ballots will be counted two weeks from election day or on Nov. 22.

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.

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.