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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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2012 Elections Underway On Guam
Officials expect around 34,000 to cast ballots

By Brett Kelman

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 6, 2012) – General Election polls on Guam will open in all villages at 7 a.m. today, and local residents should know what politicians will take office -- and which will be voted out -- by early tomorrow.

This election will select Guam's delegate to the House of Representatives, 15 local senators, six members of the Guam Education Board, two members of the Commission on Consolidated Utilities and mayors and vice mayors in many villages.

The island's public auditor, Doris Flores Brooks, is running unopposed. Voters also will decide if two Superior Court of Guam judges are retained.

Today's election also will determine if the Guam Japan Friendship Village will be allowed to host for-profit bingo in the former Guam Greyhound buildup in Tamuning.

There are 50,701 voters registered for this election, said Maria Pangelinan, executive director of the Guam Election Commission (GEC). All registered voters need a passport or other photo ID to cast their ballots.

GEC Board Chairman Joe Mesa said last night he was estimating a voter turnout of 69 percent, which would translate into about 34,000 votes. That's a lower turnout than in gubernatorial elections, he said.

Slow count

Last night, the Guam Election Commission hosted a test election at the University of Guam field house. Tabulation most likely will be slowed tomorrow because the Election Commission will use only three of its four tabulation machines.

During the Primary Election, the commission also wasn't able to use one of its tabulators, which led to slower tabulation than normal.

Last night, Jason McDonald, a technician from Election System and Software, said a tabulator machine, which is called "Larry," shouldn't be used today because of sensor errors detected in recent days.

McDonald said he attempted to fix the machine, and contacted other technicians in the mainland for assistance, but ultimately decided the machine should be sidelined after the errors became more frequent. McDonald said he didn't know what exactly had caused the malfunction, but it was most likely a matter of age.

"Most likely I would call that a regular wear-and-tear situation," McDonald said.

It's not entirely clear how old the tabulation machines are but they are based on three-decade old technology.

"Larry" isn't the same machine that malfunctioned during the Primary Election. That machine is functioning well and will be used in election tabulation tonight.

Voters from all over the island are flocking to the polls today to decide the future leaders of Guam.

Different messages

Democrats currently hold the majority in the Legislature, but the Republicans are looking to take that away tomorrow.

Both parties have fervently drilled messages to the Guam public. The dichotomy of these messages has been the foundation of both parties in gaining support, or possibly losing it.

Mike Benito, the GOP chairman for Guam, said the Republican party will give Guam the leaders it needs, leaders who will promote "initiatives, not stifle them."

These initiatives involve the tourism market and military buildup, which should "help bolster the economy, create more jobs and get the island back on its feet," according to Benito.

"We feel confident in the future of the island, both in the tourism market and with military buildup," Benito said.

Democrats feel they are the best party for Guam.

Carlo Branch, Democratic executive party chairman, said if residents want government to be "a place where foxes don't divide up the chickens, then the Democratic majority is necessary."

"We have done what the Republicans have always talked about," Branch noted.

Branch also said Republicans want to help big business and not help middle-class families, and the Democrats do.

Voters speak out

But how have Guam's voters received these messages?

Heather Punzalan, 25, from Maina, said she's pleased with the new faces running for the Legislature.

"I feel that the candidates are very qualified and will help bring new ideas to Guam," she said.

At least one other voter painted a different picture.

Daniel Flores, 54, from Inarajan, isn't certain that change will come with today's election. He said he believes that politicians will do what they always do -- leave the government "idling."

"It feels like our government is in neutral and going nowhere. I want the candidates to do what they say, and create results," Flores said.

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