Guam to cancel primary election

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Senators on Thursday night voted to cancel Saturday's primary election, against the backdrop of increased Covid-19 deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed cases.

The vote was 12 to 3.

The three who voted against canceling the Aug. 29 primary election were Sens. Wil Castro, Louise Muna and Kelly Marsh.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes' Bill 391 now goes to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who's expected to sign it immediately.

The governor asked senators to cancel the Aug. 29 primary election at the request of the Guam Election Commission.

The legislative vote comes after about five hours of discussing the bill with Attorney General Leevin Camacho and officials from the Guam Election Commission and the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

The Guam Election Commission office is located in the GCIC Building in Hagåtña. The Guam Daily Post photo

Sens. Kelly Marsh, Telo Taitague and Mary Torres offered separate amendments that were adopted, including the deletion of the mail-in voting process that GEC said it won't be able to implement by the Nov. 3 general election.

If the bill becomes law, all primary election candidates will advance to the November general election.

'Right to live' or 'right to vote'

Senators received from GEC officials a clash of views on whether to cancel or postpone Saturday's primary election, which now falls during an extended Covid-19 lockdown period.

GEC Chairman Mike Perez, a Republican, said the primary election should be postponed, stressing at the same time that "voting is not a social gathering" but a "fundamental right."

Perez said some issues with election logistics have been addressed since Friday night.

The check and balance with regard to health and safety protocol is with the Department of Public Health and Social Services, he said.

GEC Vice Chairperson Alice Taijeron, a Democrat, said the only option now is to cancel the primary election because of the surge in Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

"We have the right to vote. But we also have the right to live," she said.

Some senators said canceling the primary election will give GEC more time to prepare for the Nov. 3 general election.

In the middle of Thursday's emergency session, Sen. Amanda Shelton asked for a moment of silence after the announcement of a 10th Covid-19 related death on Guam.

GEC commissioners were among government officials that senators invited to the committee of the whole to discuss Speaker Tina Muna Barnes' bill seeking to cancel the Aug. 29 primary election.

AG opinion

Prior to the emergency session, senators received Attorney General Leevin Camacho's opinion stating that although the 2020 primary election has arguably begun, the Legislature has the authority to cancel a primary election.

And the Guam Legislature has the authority to decide on what to do with the 2,284 ballots that have been cast, the AG stated.

GEC officials said postponing the Aug. 29 primary election to a later date will impact the law-imposed schedules set for the Nov. 3 general election.

Senators also asked questions to AG Camacho, Public Health Acting Director Art San Agustin, and other officials during the committee of the whole.

Sen. Mary Torres cited the AG's opinion that Guam was able to cancel the primary elections in 1994 and 2006, and the Covid-19 pandemic presents a reason to once again consider canceling the primary.

Senators agreed that the general election cannot be canceled or postponed unless the Organic Act is amended.





November 2020 pssnewsletter

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