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Guam Recount Confirms Preliminary Election Results
Close results in 3 precincts unchanged after hand count

By Cameron Miculka

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 12, 2012) – "Nothing changes."

Those were the words used by Joe Mesa, chairman of the Guam Election Commission, at the end of yesterday's recount, capping off three days of recounting ballots from the Nov. 6 General Election.

After a series of discrepancies were discovered in Tuesday's election results, the commission elected to retally ballots from a number of races in several precincts. In total, seven precincts were at least partially recounted.

Yesterday, the Election Commission, along with volunteers from Democratic and Republican parties, hand-counted three precincts due to the closeness of mayoral and vice mayoral races in those villages.

Nonpartisan ballots in Asan-Maina also were recounted due to the ballots being incorrectly inserted into the tabulators, according to Maria Pangelinan, executive director of the Guam Election Commission.

In Asan-Maina, only 16 votes separated Democratic victor Vincent Babauta from Republican Joana Margaret C. Blas.

Similarly, in two Agat precincts, 4A and 4B, the vote spread for vice mayor came down to 45 and 3 votes, respectively.

Hand counts

As a result, the commission decided on Saturday to count the votes for those races in those precincts by hand to determine there weren't any glaring inconsistencies.

"We want to ensure every voter's right is protected," said Chris Carillo, a Democratic member of the board.

Carillo said that while there's no set margin that mandates a hand recount, the commission's policy is to hold a hand recount if it determines the race is close enough to warrant one.

In the end, each Asan-Maina mayoral candidate gained one vote, keeping the spread at 16 votes and confirming Babauta's victory, according to unofficial election data.

In the Agat precincts, Derick Hills gained one vote while Agustin Quintanilla lost one vote. Quintanilla, however, still remains the winner of that election.

Totals for the non-partisan ballots from Asan-Maina weren't immediately available, however Mesa said they didn't change the outcome of the races.

This election's series of recounts started Thursday, when the commission first met to go over the election data.

At that meeting, it was revealed that data from Precinct 4 were corrupted at some point when the data were being transferred from tabulators onto a floppy disk, or from the floppy disk to computers where all of the vote counts were being tallied.

Furthermore, data showed that there were more than 200 more votes cast in the Agana Heights mayoral race than there are registered voters in the village.

Ultimately, commissioners decided to hold a recount for the four precincts that shared the corrupted disk, as well as Agana Heights.

All five of those precincts were retallied by the machines. Two precincts were selected to be hand-counted to ensure the machines' veracity.

After those recounts, which spanned two days, the final vote counts for the corrupted data were verified and the vote counts for Agana Heights were determined to have been doubled at some point.

None of the results changed the ultimate outcome of the election.

Carillo said he wasn't familiar with any incidents in the island's history in which a recount swung an election, though there were cases in which the vote spread was extraordinarily close and a recount was necessary to verify the winner.

"When it's within 2 percentage points, you have to make sure candidates can be certified as the winner," he said.

New equipment needed

Carillo said that in order to avoid such tabulation problems in the future, he would support introducing a more up-to-date method of counting ballots. However, the problem there is funding for the commission.

"We don't have the money for new machines," he said, though he did say the commission had tasked Pangelinan with looking for other options.

Pangelinan agreed that getting new equipment was a priority for the commission.

"It's going to be very difficult if we have to use this equipment for the next election," she said.

She said she has looked at other options, but that everything is still in the beginning stages.

Despite the three-day recount process, Pangelinan said it wouldn't come at a great cost to taxpayers. She said overtime work done by commission staff would be covered under the commission's overtime budget.

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