Voters breach 18,000-mark

Early voting for those in Northern Islands begins but no actual voting yet

After breaching the 17,000-mark for the first time in CNMI history just a few weeks ago, the number of registered voters further climbed to a little more than 18,000.

Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero said that as of yesterday, the number of registered voters stood at 18,002 and there could be a few changes as they continue to receive postdated voter registration mail and some names may be deleted from the list for recent deaths, for example.

In the previous general election year in 2009, the number of registered voters was 16,146. In 2005, the number was 15,118.

“In my opinion, it’s good that the number of registered voters is up,” Guerrero said, adding that either a lot more individuals in and outside the CNMI are taking an interest in government and politics or a lot of young adults are stepping forward to vote for the first time.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), Guerrero’s predecessor, separately said yesterday that the present executive director could more precisely point to the causes for the historic level of registered voters but he ventured to say that it “could be a combination of several things.”

“One is natural progression; many are turning 18 years of age,” he said.

Sablan also noticed an organized effort to register voters from the non-indigenous communities and from those who will be 18 years old on Nov. 4, 2014.

“I also noticed that there were some registrants who were over 18 years old who registered to vote for the first time,” Sablan said.

The delegate added that the Election Commission also made trips to Guam, Hawaii, and the mainland to register, or re-register, Northern Mariana Islands citizens temporary residing in those jurisdictions.

“All these combined could have contributed to the about 12.5-percent increase in registered voters. We can now wait to see how many actually vote to gauge if a growing interest in politics and government contributed to the increase in registered voters,” he added.

Guerrero also said it would be “interesting” to find out whether a larger percentage of this year’s registered voters will actually cast their votes in the Nov. 4 general elections.

The CNMI’s actual voter turnout averages at mid-70 to mid-80 percent.

This is higher than the United States’ national election voter turnout average of below 60 percent since at least 1972.

Of the 18,002 registered CNMI voters, 27 percent or 4,897 is from election district 1 on Saipan covering San Antonio, San Vicente, and Koblerville.

Nearly 20 percent or 3,549 are from election district 3, which covers San Jose/Oleai and Garapan.

Election district 5 or Kagman has 2,829 registered voters, followed by election district 4 with 1,814. Election district 4 covers Tanapag, San Roque, Capital Hill, and the Northern Islands.

Rota or election district 7 has 1,800 registered voters, while Tinian or election district 6 has 1,658.
The smallest election district, 2, or the Chalan Kanoa/Susupe area, has 1,455 registered voters.

Early voting

Meanwhile, early voting for about a dozen registered voters who are actually living in the Northern Islands started on Sept. 20.

But because no boat from Saipan has since gone to Pagan, Alamagan, and other islands where voters are, the Election Commission has yet to facilitate their voting.

Guerrero said early voting for Northern Islands voters currently on Saipan will begin on Oct. 28, the same as the early voting on Saipan.

“The early voting that started on Sept. 20 is only for those who are actually in the Northern Islands. That begins earlier to make sure we’re able to accommodate them. Because no boat has gone up to the Northern Islands yet from Saipan, we cannot bring the ballots there yet,” said Guerrero.

Moreover, at least 72 additional absentee ballots will be mailed out this week in addition to over 1,400 sent out on Thursday last week. Absentee voters should expect to get their ballots either later this week or next week. There are now 1,690 absentee voters.

A special election to fill a Senate vacancy will be held on the same day as that of the Nov. 4 general elections to save nearly $100,000 by holding two elections on the same day.

The CNMI is also headed for a third election in November. If none of the four gubernatorial teams garner at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, then there will be a gubernatorial runoff race.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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