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ARLINGTON, Virginia (October 25, 1999 - U.S. Newswire)---The Voting Integrity Project (VIP) filed an amicus brief on Friday in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Gutierrez vs. Ada (Case No. 99-51). The case involves a challenge by Republican Joseph Ada to Democrat Carl Gutierrez's re-election as Governor of Guam in 1998.

VIP's interest was in whether invalid votes could be counted toward totals upon which a winning majority was calculated. Miscalculation would dilute the votes of legitimate ballots cast. VIP supported the position that certification of Gov. Gutierrez as the winner of the election was correct, since the Governor won a clear majority when such invalid votes were not counted toward the total.

In the 1998 election in Guam, more than three percent of voters cast ballots which were invalid because they were either blank or "over-voted" (voted for both gubernatorial slates). A statute enacted by Congress, which has plenary authority over Guam, requires that in order to win an election without facing a runoff, a gubernatorial slate must receive "a majority of all votes cast in any election."

Of the properly cast votes, Gutierrez's slate achieved a clear majority, but Ada sued, arguing that the improperly marked ballots should be counted in order to determine the number necessary for a majority. Under such a scenario, Gutierrez's slate fails to achieve the majority. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accepted Ada's claims and ordered a runoff election.

In its brief, VIP argues that the Ninth Circuit misinterpreted the law by ignoring its statutory context. VIP contends that the law speaks only of gubernatorial elections, and that elections for other offices such as legislature or school board cannot dictate the gubernatorial vote count. Similarly, ballots that are deemed void under Guam's territorial election code should not be counted.

In its brief VIP argues that to accept Ada's interpretation would create a situation where even a runoff election could fail to produce a winner. Guam would then be left without a governor.

Congress signaled that this was not its intent by failing to provide for a second runoff.

Thus, VIP argues that since Gutierrez's slate received a majority of all the properly cast votes, the language of the statute mandates that his slate be certified as the winners of the election.

***The Voting Integrity Project is a national, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating and equipping Americans to protecting election integrity in their own community. VIP also litigates to protect and preserve voter rights and the integrity of American elections. In the case of Guam, the rights of citizens who properly voted in the 1998 gubernatorial election cannot be and should not be diluted by persons who chose not to cast proper ballots on election day. 

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