The Guam Election Commission hopes the legislature will clarify how it intends to void uncontested or otherwise unnecessary primary elections.
Elizabeth Santos, the commission’s acting executive director, outlined several proposed changes to two electoral reform bills that went through a public hearing on Monday.
Bills 173-36 and 174-36, both drafted by Senator James Moylan, would change a number of local election laws, including provisions affecting the names candidates use in official documents, electoral boundaries in polling stations and a deadline for holding a special meeting. election in the event of a vacancy for the post of delegate in Washington.
The first proposal addressed by the GEC is how best to cancel some primary elections. In order to make the parameters of Bill 173 “ample clear,” Santos asked senators to amend the bill to read:
“In any given election year, the Guam Election Commission voids the primary election if it equals or falls below the maximum number of candidates who can run in the general election for any partisan elected office.”
The provision as proposed would only nullify elections for individual offices, and only in their entirety — not for a single political party, Santos has repeatedly assured lawmakers.
“It would be per office,” Santos said. “If we take the Legislative Assembly for example – if the Democrats field 15 primary candidates and the Republicans have 15 – then only that race would be void.”
The legislation also allows the GEC to no longer know exactly who was supported by written votes.
“The GEC will only count a write-in vote if the provided write-in vote oval is marked and the voter provides a name written next to the vote oval. The GEC must report the results of the total votes by writing for each elected office.”, proposes the language requested by the committee for the bill. “However, the GEC will only release tabulation results for each of the Written Nominees nominated for that elected office if a Written Nominee receives enough votes to affect the ranking of any Qualified Candidate for a specific elected office.”
Lawmakers understood the intent not to waste time and money sorting, tallying and publishing votes for fictional characters like Mickey Mouse, but were reluctant to deny the ability of an actual written campaign to measure their reach. during unsuccessful job offers.
“You may have other people who have been nominated, and maybe they haven’t had an overwhelming number of votes, but…I think it’s important, just for awareness and transparency, that information be made available – even if it’s a silly name – in fairness to the voting public and the community of who wrote who,” Senator Joanne Brown said of the potential change.
Early primary election, filing deadlines
To help comply with federal out-of-country voting laws, the GEC is also supporting Bill 174, which would push back primary election dates, in addition to deadlines for candidates to file packets and residents register as voters.
The legislation proposes to push back an election year’s initial vote to the first, rather than the last, Saturday in August. If passed, campaigns will have to file official paperwork to appear on a ballot a month earlier than current law allows.
The measure also requires voters to register for an election 21 days before it is held, instead of the current 10-day window.
“We see a big surge of registrants just before that 10 day deadline. And that means during those 10 days we have to check – I can say hundreds of registration affidavits, and that’s a lot of detail” , Santos said.
A number of different scenarios could play out next year depending on how lawmakers change the measure. According to information offered by Santos:
• If the primary election date remains unchanged, but the proposed changes to filing deadlines pass, the earliest for candidates to file materials would be March 21, 2022, with a deadline of May 20, 2022.
• If the date of the primary is moved forward to the first Saturday in August, as the bill proposes—and lawmakers additionally adopt earlier filing deadlines—the first opportunity for candidates to file would be on February 28, 2022, with a month of May. 7 2022, deadline.
• If no change in the law is made, the deadline for submitting applications remains April 19, 2022 and June 28, 2022, respectively.
The GEC would be able to hold a primary election sooner without changing filing or registration deadlines, Santos told lawmakers.