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Asan-Maina, Agat will be hand-counted

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam- After a grueling 14 hours, the Guam Election Commission completed its recount of results from the General Election of seven different precincts. However, it now intends to do a hand count of one mayoral and vice mayoral race due to the closeness of votes for both races.

As we reported, the GEC spent most of Friday machine tabulating precincts 4 in Agat, 6 in Umatac, 13a in Agana Heights and 18c and 18g in Dededo. Precinct 4 showed obvious error in data with incumbent Adolpho Palacios receiving zero votes and Democrat senatorial candidate LeahBeth Naholowaa receiving one vote. Election Systems and Software technicians traced the problem to a corrupt disk transferring data from the machine to the software system. That same disk carried precincts 6, 18c and 18g. Precinct 13a meanwhile was recounted due to the ballots being double counted. Shortly after the machine tabulation was completed, GEC then proceeded to conduct a hand count of two precincts— precinct 4 due to the discrepancies and at random precinct 13a to ensure further accurateness. Due to the extensive time it took to conduct the hand count, it ceased early Friday evening and continued on Saturday morning at 9:01am.

GEC and the respective party representatives spent all of Saturday hand counting over a thousand ballots in total. Unofficial results showed the hand count was pretty accurate with no significant changes with just a margin of one or two votes difference from the machine count on about a dozen candidates in the Guam Legislature.  

Shortly after the hand count, GEC conducted a machine tabulation of two more precincts chosen at random—precinct 14a in Mongmong-Toto-Maite and 16 in Mangilao and compared the results with the unofficial count conducted on the General Election.

Once all the recounts were completed, a little before 11pm, the GEC met and discussed all the results of the recount. Board chairman Joe Mesa noted that the machine recount verified the commission's suspicions of discrepancies from the original count. Board member John Taitano added he was "happy and humbled" that the hand count reflected an accurate account of those particular precincts in question.

The final printout of the unofficial results inclusive of the new results showed no significance changes in the races specifically for the Guam Legislature, the top 15 positions remained relatively the same. And while Palacios's zero votes in Precinct 4 in Agat jumped up to 264, it still was a big gap between his number 16 position and the number 15 position held by incumbent Senator Rory Respicio by a little under 400 votes.

Both Democrat Party of Guam Executive Director Carlo Branch and Republican Party of Guam Chairman Mike Benito were present during the entire recount and during the meeting thanked commissioners and employees for the hard work put into the recount.

And while Mesa noted everything was resolved with respect to this particular recount, he said between now and its next meeting on November 19th where the GEC will certify the results, he hoped it would give the GEC time to go over administrative issues such as one precinct showing 148 votes missing in the non-partisan race. Additionally, as we reported, about a dozen complaints were filed with the GEC this week in which its legal counsel was reviewing and preparing a response.

The GEC meanwhile voted to relook at the mayoral race in Asan-Maina and the vice mayoral race of Agat due to both races being extremely close. The GEC will now conduct a hand count of all of Asan-Maina only for the mayoral race and the two remaining precincts in Agat—Precinct 4a and 4b, only for the vice mayoral race.

The Asan-Maina mayoral race showed Republican Joana Margaret Blas defeating Democrat Vincent Babauta with 292 to 276 a difference of 16 votes. Additionally there were 179 write-in votes. In the Agat vice mayoral race, incumbent Agustin Quintanilla defeated Democrat Derick Baza Hills with 741 to 701 a difference of 40 votes. There were 299 write-in votes.

In comparison to the Legislature, today's hand count of the mayoral race was rather quick and with the all party representatives set to help tomorrow, is expected to be fast as well. The hand count for these races will take place Sunday at 2:01pm.

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