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Election bill to address Covid-19 concerns

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SENATOR Sixto K. Igisomar on Tuesday pre-filed Senate Bill 21-68 that aims to mitigate risks of the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2020 midterm elections set for Nov. 3.

The bill will allow early voting for registered voters who are unable to go to the polling precincts because they are confined at home or at the hospital due to illness or physical disability.

The measure permits the voter or a member of his or her immediate family or guardian to make a written request for absentee ballots during the early-voting period.

S.B. 21-68 also proposes that an early-voting period by personal appearance begin 21 days prior to Election Day, up to 8 p.m.

The bill requires that polling places for early voting remain open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.,  Monday to Sunday.

Igisomar, who is seeking reelection, wants to authorize the Commonwealth Election Commission to make changes to the election procedures if necessary. These include designating more polling places to adhere to social-distancing protocols.

In addition, the bill proposes curbside voting so registered voters may vote in his or her vehicle at a designated curbside polling place   “to diminish or reduce the voter’s exposure to the Covid-19 public health threat.”

According to the bill, “The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted our homes, workplace, the government, the community, business establishments as well as our environment. Covid-19 impacted our community in many ways including voting. The upcoming 2020 CNMI election is set for Nov. 3, 2020 and changes need to be made to mitigate the public health threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Lack of quorum

S.B. 21-68 will also give the election commission executive director the authority to decide on polling places, and make necessary changes to the procedures “in the event that the commission does not have a quorum.”

The Senate has yet to act on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ four nominees to the commission.

On July 15, the governor nominated Doris Aldan Atalig to represent Saipan, and renominated Lelanie Manglona and Joseph Santos to continue to represent Rota and Tinian.

The governor, however, withdrew his renomination of Santos who failed to submit the required documents, and nominated John Attao on July 28.

The governor also nominated Vicenta Maria Rosario of Saipan  to the commission.

The Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Investigations, Variety was told, will hold public hearings on the nominations next week.

 

 

 

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