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Absentee ballot applications due Oct. 9

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WITH less than a month left until the November 2020 midterm elections, absentee voters still have until tomorrow, Friday, to submit an absentee ballot application.

Under CNMI law, any registered voter at any election may request and cast an absentee ballot with the Commonwealth Election Commission.

The election commission is required to compile and keep a current list of persons requesting an absentee ballot, pursuant to 1 CMC §6210 and 6211, including the date such a request was made.

It must also make and keep a list of persons to whom an absentee ballot was personally delivered or mailed, including the dates the ballots were delivered or mailed.

These lists are required by law to be updated and published to the public as soon as practical after the information is received, and in no case later than 48 hours after the receipt of the information.

The commission is also required to make each of these lists immediately available for public inspection at a government building in each senatorial district, which maintains regular business hours, and also via a website that is accessible without requiring user registration or the use of a password.

In September, two election bills were passed by the Legislature and were signed into law by the governor in order to adapt and adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Absentee ballot applications are due tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Public Law 21-34 has suspended certain CNMI election laws for the 2020 midterm election to mitigate the public health risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This new law adjusts the early voting time, adds more polling places, as well as extends the hours of operations for early voting and election day.

It also authorizes curbside voting and procedures, and authorizes the election commission to collect absentee ballots seven days before and 14 days after the general election.

Absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before November 3, 2020, and received by the Commission no later than 14 days after election day.

Two persons designated by the CEC, along with an observer from the Office of the Public Auditor, will go to the designated post office to collect and process absentee ballots beginning one week before the general election, up until two weeks after election day.

All absentee ballots will not be counted or tabulated until the closure of the general election. They will be locked in a ballot box, and the keys will be kept at OPA.

The two CEC designees are also responsible for noting the date and time that absentee ballots are received, as well as ensuring that the signature on the voter application for an absentee ballot matches that on the affidavit and the registration.

If the absentee ballot envelope is sealed and does not appear to have been tampered with, it will be accepted and initialed by the two CEC designees.

An absentee ballot may be rejected if the signatures on both the application for an absentee ballot and the affidavit and registration appear to not have been made by the same person, if the affidavit is not properly completed, if the return envelope is not sealed, if the seal appears to have been tampered with, if the commission has already received an absentee ballot from that person, if the absentee voter has died or has otherwise become ineligible to vote on election day, or if the ballot was received after the deadline.

Rejected ballots will not be delivered to the accounting and tabulation committee, and will be placed in a secure location by the Commission for at least six months after the election.

Moreover, it gives the CEC flexibility to make changes to the election procedures, if necessary, to mitigate the public health risks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public Law 21-33 allows members of the CEC to appear, attend, participate, and vote in an official meeting using a telephone, video, or other electronic means.

This is intended to minimize the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

During a press briefing last week on KKMP radio, the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force Chairperson Warren Villagomez noted that the task force is charged by the new law to be part of the election process.

“We are busy making sure that all of the protocols and processes, as well as facilitating equipment that makes an election function, are evaluated and resourced out to make sure that people are safe when they come in,” he said.

Villagomez said  the task force is working with the election commission to ensure that there is adequate personal protective equipment for poll workers for both early voting and election day.

He said that they are working to make sure that all workers are properly trained and equipped.

As of Wednesday, the CEC had 987 entries in its Absentee Voter Listing database, and 18,517 voters in its Voter Registration Statistics database.

Early voting for Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands is scheduled to commence on Oct. 27, a week before election day.

Designation for polling places and distribution of listing are scheduled for Oct. 19, 15 days before election day.

The absentee ballot application is available for download via the CEC website: www.votecnmi.gov.mp

To submit an absentee ballot application, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., mail the ballot to the CEC at P.O. Box 500470, Saipan, MP 96950, or fax it to 664-8689.

Ballots that are mailed in must be postmarked no later than Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.

For more information, contact the CEC at 235-VOTE (8683) or 235-8682/8685, or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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