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Kilili asks governor, again, for transparency on election money

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(Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has renewed his request to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for public disclosure of how $1.2 million in federal election security funds have been spent.

Congressman Sablan wrote the Governor on July 30, shortly after the House Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing on barriers to voting in the U.S. insular areas, asking for an accounting of the funds. To date, the Governor has not replied and explained what happened to the money.

Congress provided the Commonwealth with $1.2 million to upgrade voting equipment, conduct election auditing, make on-line registration available, strengthen cyber-security, better track campaign financing, and implement vote-by-mail for all voters. The funds could also be used to increase the number of voting places to reduce crowding and long waits during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There has been so much talk from the President about how our election system is not reliable,” Congressman Sablan said, “I think people in the Marianas have a right to know what the Governor had done with the money Congress provided to increase public confidence in the election and make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote.

“The Marianas receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant funds and what happens to all that money is not always clear. In this one specific instance, the Governor should be able to answer the simple question of how he used the election assistance money.”

Half of the $1.2 million was provided to the Commonwealth in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Public Law 116-93, in December 2019. The other half came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, Public Law 116-136, enacted in March 2020. The Commonwealth Election Commission operates on an election year budget of $222,750.

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