All together now

IT was, generally speaking, a smooth election. As usual, there were long lines on Election Day, but imagine how longer they could be without the week-long early voting period. At any rate, it was another orderly and peaceful election — a tremendous blessing (denied to many other democracies) that we should never take for granted.

As for voter turnout, it was about 77%. Not bad at all. And yes. Choosing “none-of-the-above” by not voting is also an excellent democratic right.

We should also mention that throughout the campaign season which started early this year, voters were constantly informed about the “issues,” and bombarded with “facts” by the candidates through various ways, including social media. The usual promises and speeches were made, and most, if not almost everyone, agreed that “the children are our future!” and leaders should “listen to the people!” and “serve the people!” and education! and training! are important,  and of course the economy! and the environment!,  as well as cultural heritage! and good government!

Thank you. Come again.

Tabulation tribulation 

THE main complaint about this year’s election was the glacial pace of the tabulation on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning which, we believe, set a new record for unbearable slowness. The last time the general/gubernatorial election ballots were counted manually was in 1997, and it ended at past 3 p.m. the day after the election. (Back then, CNMI voters cast their ballots on a Saturday, and many of them would learn about the partial results in Variety’s Monday edition. The absentee ballots would be tabulated several days later.)

This year, the Commonwealth Election Commission — using machines — completed the tabulation of the ballots at way past 4 p.m.,  a day after the election. There must be a good reason for the holdup, but it was never communicated to the reporters who were at the multi-purpose center to cover the event for their readers and/or viewers who included voters and the candidates themselves. Asked about the  exasperating delay in the announcement of the results, an election official said, “Even me I don’t know what’s going on.” 

Which is too bad — for the CEC, its officials, staff and poll workers who, in any case, should be commended for their hard work and diligence. Unexplained tabulation delays, however, can spawn “conspiracy theories” that are eagerly believed by certain folks. But just to be clear. In the CNMI, the tabulation of the ballots is witnessed by the poll watchers of the competing political parties/groups, several media outlets including from Guam, as well as representatives from the  Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Public Auditor. There are also other safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of the tabulation process.

To be sure, previous tabulations — especially for the post-Yutu election in 2018 — were never completed quickly, but they also didn’t take “forever.”

Perhaps in the next election, the CEC would consider designating an official spokesperson (preferably an assistant AG) to answer, on the record, questions from the media and poll workers during the tabulation process.

Today, rumors not only have wings, but they also go viral. By providing timely information to the public on a long election night, the CEC can do a much better job of reassuring the people that the election process is clean and credible.

Zaldy Dandan is a recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His four books are available on amazon.com/.

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