Election Reform Bill goes up for vote
Guam - After spending several days on legislation to reform the island's hoping to learn from their experience with previous elections and ultimately provide a smoother process moving forward, lawmakers have finalized legislation aimed at revamping the entire election process. It's clear the Democrats and Republicans are divided on the direction of Bill 413.
Committee chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. says after a week of discussion and with over 50 amendments by his colleagues in the Guam Legislature, he hopes there will be some ease for everyone having their doubts about the election process moving forward. "For the voter, I don't think there's going to be much of a change they should expect you know in having them go out there and vote. I think what they would find comfort in is knowing - we tried our best to en sure that every vote is counted, that everyone takes the time to exercise their right is heard and we don't disenfranchise anybody," he stated.
Several proposed changes to the election code include authorizing the Guam Election Commission to reformat ballots to accommodate independent candidates, increasing the pay of those who work during the election, restrictions in having private security at voting sites, ways in certifying results and addressing complaints, along with moving the primary election date a week earlier. Other amendments include an audit to be conducted solely on the 2010 election, which is currently at the center of legal challenge.
The bill also enables the Guam Election Commission's Board of Directors the authority to decertify election results should they find any significant irregularities. With the exception of one excused absence, the vote on the legislation was straight down party lines: all the Democrats voted yes while the Republicans voted no.
After voting Senator Rory Respicio responded to criticism that the bill was more about focusing on the 2010 election rather than reforming the process, saying, "To say this went from election reform to the 2010 election s absolutely correct because this is how we got to this juncture. And in the course of going over, we heard from members of the Guam Election Commission board, we heard of all the instances of gross negligence or gross incompetence or whatever you want to call it, but whatever you want to call it resulted in a very different outcome that many people believe would have been otherwise if the election laws were follow."
In an anticipation of a veto, Respicio is encouraging his colleagues to push for an override. He's also requesting that Senator Rodriguez call an oversight hearing over the GEC to look into Decision 2010.