TRO to stop counting of absentee ballots sought
Seeks Declaratory Judgment that a person register physically in Palau
By: L. N. Reklai
A motion asking the Court to grant Temporary Restraining Order and an injunction against Palau Election Commission to stop them from opening and counting all absentee ballots cast outside of the Republic of Palau on September 27, 2016 Primary Election was filed on the eve of the Primary Election by Joel Toribiong and plaintiffs, Richard Silmai, Ephraim Ngiraitei, Moses Yobech, Isreal Demei and Richard Sandei. [restrict]
The plaintiffs have earlier filed a suit against Palau Election Commission alleging that it did not follow the law by registering people to vote in Palau while physically outside of the Republic of Palau, in violation of 23 PNC §§ 1401 and 1402, which, according to the plaintiffs, require that “voter registration process take place exclusively within the Republic of Palau.”
The plaintiffs asks the court to grant TRO and restrain Palau Election Commission from opening, counting and tabulating all absentee ballots cast by overseas voters and received by Palau Election Commission.
Furthermore, plaintiffs claim that their motion meets all the standards require for an injunction to be issued. Citing that their case has high likelihood of success, that they will suffer irreparable injury if injunction is not granted, that harm to them is greater than potential harm to PEC and that it is in the best interest of the public to grant the TRO.
“If the absentee ballots cast by such individuals unlawfully registered as voters of Palau by Defendant Palau Election Commission to were to be counted and tabulated, they will certainly dilute, distort, or may nullify the outcome of the Primary Election for President and Vice President of the Republic of Palau and the outcome of the General National Election for the final election of the President and Vice President and members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau,” states Toribiong and the plaintiffs seeking TRO.
Palau Election Commission filed its response opposing plaintiffs’ motion stating that they do not meet all of the 4 legal standards for the court to issue an injunction.
PEC disagrees that plaintiffs have likelihood of success in winning the case, believing that their interpretation that a person must be physically register in the district they wish to vote in is narrow and illogical interpretation of the law.
Citing a Court ruling in the Kasiano v. Election Commission (2010) which states that a person can be a resident of one place but physically resides elsewhere.
Furthermore, PEC asserts that the plaintiffs interpretation would require a person who is a resident of Angaur to make a special trip to Angaur to fill out a voter’s registration form even though they can fill it out at the Election Commission’s Office or someone in the armed forces to fly to Palau to register to vote..
PEC further argues that 23 PNC 1408 specifically states, “The Election Commission is specifically authorized to provide for registration and re-registration of qualified voters outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Republic.”
PEC states that further delay in opening and counting of the absentee ballots will only delay the general election, put greater stress on already stretched resources of PEC and placing more burdens on the citizens right to vote, is not in the best interest of the Republic.
“Urging the court to deny the plaintiff motion, and uphold citizens’ right to vote, PEC poses…should Palau be seen as world leader in protecting the right to vote…or should it be seen as a country that put technical geography or substantive human right?”
Absentee ballots casts and received by Palau Election Commission are slated to be opened and tabulation on Tuesday, October 4, 2016.
Toribiong and plaintiffs have earlier filed a case against Palau Election Commission arguing that 23 PNC Section 1401 and 1402 requires that a person eligible to vote in Palau must be physically present in Palau to register to vote and that the actions of PEC registering and accepting registrations of person outside of the Republic is illegal and that votes cast by people of registered outside of Palau must be removed from the Voters Registration List. [/restrict]