GEC says voter turnout was only 17% - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEC says voter turnout was only 17%

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by Jason Salas

Guam - While Super Saturday may not have seen an impressive turnout from the community, the agency tasked with managing it did a splendid job of tabulating the ballots for the special election to fill the 30th Legislature's empty seat.  The Guam Election Commission, staffed with an energetic crop of young people, tallied up more than 7,600 ballots from around the island in just under three hours last night at the UOG Field House. 

GEC Executive Director John Blas told KUAM News last night that initial projections peg the voter turnout at being around 17% of the almost 50,000 voters the island has registered.  "Notwithstanding the low voter turnout, I am very satisfied with the process for Election Day.  With the precinct officials' performance out in the polling stations to our tabulators at Election Central, overall I'm very satisfied and very pleased with the work that's been done tonight," he said happily.

But while the mood was positive and the agency is proud to have finished the entire election before the clock struck midnight, Blas says he is concerned about the low amount of participation, but is optimistic about the community's response in the democratic process by the time the Primary Election rolls around in October.

He continued, "As the head of the Election Commission, I was disappointed at the voter turnout, and that's something I need to look at.  Perhaps if there's some way to entice the voters who are currently registered or who will be able to registered for the Primary Election, I'll do everything I can to get that information out."

Still, in making his rounds of the various polling sites throughout Super Saturday, Blas says residents gave him their honest criticism about the events - feedback he sincerely appreciates.  "I was able to visit 13 of the 21 polling sites, there were two voters who had the same line of thinking, letting me know that this special election was a waste of time and a waste of money.  Another said there were only eight months left in the term; the Legislature should have just carried on with that eight-month term unseated.

And my explanation to the voters is that our election laws are there, there's a process to fill the vacancy if there is one," said Blas.  "And the Guam Election Commission always intends to and always will follow those laws."

And in the grand scheme of things, operationally Blas couldn't be happier with the performance of his team, and takes with him valuable lessons as he heads into the Decision 2010 season.

"Individuals are willing to step forward and take the job seriously and do very good and very diligent work. In taking that forward, I look forward to working with these same folks on the upcoming primary."

GEC staff indicated that normal elections average around 70% participation, with last year's special election to fill the vacancy created with the death of Tony Unpingco being around 61%.

The board of directors for the GEC plans to meet tomorrow at noon, at which time they'll certify the results of the special election.  Legislative staffers say senator-elect Tony Ada (R), who won the election decidedly with 44% of the vote, will be sworn-in as Guam's 15th senator at 5pm.

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