2016 Election faced with more challenges

  14 Oct 2016

EC loses 2 out of 3 staffs

By: L.N. Reklai

October 12, 2016 (Koror, Palau) 2016 General Election may turn out to be one of the most contentious election after the Compact plebiscites with 3 lawsuits filed against Election Commission and numerous letters and emails from Senators questioning allegations and even videos of absentee ballot processing at the Election Commission going viral in Palau social media groups.  [restrict]

Adding to that, 2 of the 3 employees of Election Commission manning the office during this very busy time are no longer working.  Reports said that one was fired and another resigned but no official confirmations, as to what actually transpired, have been released.

Meanwhile lawsuits filed and appealed regarding the exact number of senators to vote for in the upcoming election are pending in court.  With 17 days remaining until the Election Day, printing of ballots is still awaiting court decision.

Concerns are pouring in from outside absentee voters about the timeliness of their ballots reaching them and well as those leaving off island before the election who may miss voting due to ballots not being available before their departure dates.

Senate JGA Committee and other members of the Senate held an open meeting with the Election Commission Board members on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 to try and find out how these concerns are being addressed.

Issues raised in a letter to Election Commission regarding allegations of possible ballot tampering, changes in the process of tabulation and spilled ballot box were raised .  Senators expressed frustration from a seeming lack of response or due consideration given by Election Commission over many issues raised by some of the Senators.

Senator Pierantozzi stated that the lack of response to public questions only fueled more frustrations and more misinformation.  She added if the Commission was more informative and forthcoming with information, perhaps many of these concerns would not have become issues as they are now.

Elliot Udui, Chairman of the Election Commission, agreed that perhaps they have not been as forthcoming as they should, but they had instructed their attorney to respond to the questions and inquires that were addressed to Election Commission.

At the meeting, the Board members stated that they don’t have the details yet about the two staffs no longer working but they will be meeting shortly to find out.  According to them, the administrator was off-island and just returned that evening.

Concerns about limited number of people manning the polls, security of the ballots at the polls and to and from the Election Office as well the timetable to get the ballots out were expressed.

According to Election Commission, they’ve requested assistance from the police for the security but there are not enough officers to man all the polls and therefore, those assigned to Keuikl, Despedall and Koror will be rotating between polling sites and will be escorting the boxes back to the office after the election.

Currently Board members are assisting with manning the office but the office is actively seeking more volunteers to help them prepare for the election, as well as man the polls during election and tabulate after.  Election Commission had requested assistance of teachers who will be available during the election day due to holiday, to help man the polls.

Whether the ballot will be ready on time for absentee to be sent out is still a question, although Election Commission had already authorized two templates of ballots, one for 13 and one for 11 made so that the process could be expedited once decision is made. [/restrict]