COURT ORDERS NEW GUAM ELECTION

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By Eric F. Say

HAGATNA, Guam (December 10, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---U.S. District Court Judge John S. Unpingco ordered yesterday the holding of a run-off election for governor and lieutenant governor on December 19, ruling that Democratic incumbents Gov. Carl T. C. Gutierez and Lt. Gov. Madeleine Z. Bordallo failed to get the required winning percentage.

Expressing disappointment over Unpingco's decision, Bordallo said the Democratic Party will request a stay of the court's order and appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco.

"We do not agree with the (court's) findings," Bordallo said in a press conference. "In the meantime we will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the government."

Gutierrez is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

In ordering a run-off, Unpingco ruled that ballots with unmarked votes for gubernatorial position are to be counted.

Unpingco's decision stemmed from the lawsuit filed by Republican candidates Joseph F. Ada, who claimed that his Democratic rival failed to get the required majority vote in a tally that set aside unmarked ballots.

Unpingco denied a request by the attorney of a Guam Election Commission member to "stay" his decision.

Unpingco, in his decision, said he considered the question of blank ballots and their relevancy to the majority of votes.

He set aside a decision made in a similar case in the Virgin Islands and based his decision on a California law which states that blank votes are to be counted.

Phillip Carbullido, attorney for Gutierrez, argued that "this case should not even be considered in a federal court and should be left to the lower Superior Court."

Unpingco addressed that argument by saying, "because this is a question of the wording of the Organic Act of Guam, it does belong in my court addressing the issue of 'majority of votes,' therefore, I am ordering a run-off election on the 19th day of December."

Unpingco added, "I want this case resolved before New Year prior to the swearing in of the new 15-member legislature."

Republican Party Chairman Fred Castro said, "we are very pleased with the judge's decision. It shows that impartial justice can be achieved on our island of Guam."

Larry Tecker, attorney for Guam Election Commission member Joseph Duenas, said, "We immediately asked for a stay in the decision but this was denied by Judge Unpingco."

Tecker added, "It is quite obvious that the judge ruled in error, and we are confident that the decision by Unpingco's court will be overturned."

GUAM ELECTIONS COMMISSION READY FOR RUN-OFF'

By Jojo Santo Tomas

HAGATNA, Guam (December 10, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---Despite the short period of preparation given by the District Court, election officials said yesterday they are ready to conduct the run-off elections for governor.

"We feel rushed. The time factor is the biggest concern," said Liz Blas, Deputy Director of the Guam Elections Commission. "But we'll be ready."

The board held a special meeting yesterday to address various legal concerns and prevent any possible challenges to the run-off election.

One of the main concerns of the board was who would be eligible to vote.

A request was made for a legal opinion on the matter.

"We need it very quickly," board chair Joe Mesa said. "We need it by tomorrow."

The board also wants to know how to select precinct officials.

GEC Executive Director Henry Torres said a runoff election would cost either $150,000 or $195,000, depending on whether ballots would be counted at the precinct level or by the more expensive machine count.

The GEC board recessed to review District Judge John Unpingco's ruling.

The board will also hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at noon today, where they will go over legal opinions submitted.

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

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