GUAM ELECTION LEGAL BATTLE BEGINS

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By Eric F. Say

HAGATNA, Guam (December 8, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---The legal battle over whether unmarked ballots in the last Guam general elections should be counted or not began yesterday at a packed U.S. District courtroom.

A lawsuit filed by Republican candidates Joseph Ada and Felix Camacho seeks a court ruling on whether Democratic candidates Carl T. C. Gutierrez and Madeline Z. Bordallo received a majority of the votes cast in the November election.

Curtis van de Veld, lawyer for Ada and Camacho, told the court that ballots that were not marked should be counted. Judge John S. Unpingco asked who then should receive the benefit of those unmarked ballots if allowed to be counted.

On the other hand, Philip Carbullido, attorney for the Guam Election Commission and the Gutierrez-Bordallo tandem, said that the issue of unmarked ballots should not be decided in a federal court but in Guam's Superior Court.

Meanwhile at Superior Court, Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood has been assigned to the case and a ruling on some of the questions being asked about the election could come down tomorrow.

Specifically, the Superior Court is being asked to decide if massive fraud occurred in the election process.

Lawrence Tecker, attorney for Joseph Duenas, Vice Chairman of the Guam Election Commission, gave his argument that lasted only less than a minute. He had in hand a sample copy of the November ballot.

He told the judge, "What we had here was four separate elections on one ballot." He tore off a portion of the ballot and put it into his pocket and said, "If a voter did not want to vote for a particular party than it shouldn't be counted."

Attorney Fred Horecky pointed out that the 14-day rule on having a runoff election has expired.

The election commission has certified the election and ruled that the issue of a run-off election is moot.

Case after case was cited by both sides regarding the question of counting blank ballots. The Ada-Camacho panel contended the ballots should be counted whereas the Gutierrez-Bordallo camp said they should not be.

Previously, the GEC had ruled that blank ballots were not to be counted.

Unpingco appeared to be moving swiftly on this matter and took all arguments under advisement. He is expected to give his ruling tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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