Official: 5 removed from NMI list were US registered voters

THE Commonwealth Election Commission’s legal counsel said the five voters removed from the official list intentionally registered as voters on the mainland U.S.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Witry said this was among the findings of the administrative hearing officer, George Hasselback, after conducting a voter registration hearing on the 86 voters whose eligibility was challenged.

Hasselback found that five of the 86 were “dual residents” and were also registered voters of Nevada or Washington.

Hasselback stated in his report that one of them admitted that she registered to vote in Washington to enable her to receive public benefits there, but still wished to vote in CNMI elections.

Two others were found to be registered voters of Nevada, Hasselback said, adding that the other voters did not contact the election commission and did not contest its findings.

Election commission personnel unlock the ballot boxes while acting board chair Jesus Sablan looks on, Monday, at the multi-purpose center.Election commission personnel unlock the ballot boxes while acting board chair Jesus Sablan looks on, Monday, at the multi-purpose center.

The five voters removed from the list can still challenge the decision and file an appeal, Witry said.

As for the 81 other voters, Hasselback said they stated that they did not register to vote in the state where they live and did not wish to vote other than for CNMI elections.

Hasselback said the election commission has not met its burden to prove that these voters intentionally register in the states.

Absentee ballots

In related news, the election commission has started the process of inspecting absentee ballots to see if they were postmarked properly.

Witry said they expect to start the tabulation by Tuesday afternoon right after they pick up the last batch of ballots from the post office before it closes.

Hopefully, he added, they can start counting the ballots at 4 p.m. and end the tabulation before midnight to make sure they are not violating the law which mandates that the tabulation of the absentee ballots ends on Nov. 23.

Commonwealth Election Commission board members and Executive Director Julita Villagomez meet on Monday with  their legal counsel Assistant Attorney General Michael Witry. Photos by Cherrie Anne E. VillahermosaCommonwealth Election Commission board members and Executive Director Julita Villagomez meet on Monday with their legal counsel Assistant Attorney General Michael Witry. Photos by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

“Today and tomorrow, we will do some signature comparisons, we will open the ballots and the envelopes that have signatures of the persons who requested the absentee ballots, compare them to see if the signature of the person in the register matches with the signature on the envelope, then we can determine if it can be counted or not. Once we determine that the ballot will be counted, we will require the initials of the five commissioners. Tomorrow, once we get the final batch of the ballots from the post office, we will feed them into the machines for tabulation.”

Witry said once the tabulation is done, the commission will certify the results and announce the official winners of the election.

The certification of the results will be made Wednesday morning, he added.

But the commission doesn’t have any information yet as to how many absentee ballots were received as of Monday.

The commission said it was still in the process of inspecting the ballots to determine if they were valid for tabulation or not.

The final number of absentee ballots for tabulation will be determined Tuesday, Variety was told.

The Rota Senate race and two House races on Saipan will be decided by the absentee ballots.

Also on Monday, the election commission met to discuss the tabulation procedure and Hasselback’s findings.

The commissioners present were acting chairman Jesus Sablan, Tinian members Donald Hofschneider and Joseph Santos, Rota member Esther Yatar and Saipan’s Trinidad Rabauliman.

It was Commonwealth Election Commission Executive Director Julita Villagomez who reported the findings of the administrative hearing officer to the commissioners.