INCLUSION OF CASINO INITIATIVE ON GUAM BALLOT REJECTED

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By Theresa Merto

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (September 10, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---The Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal to place a casino gambling initiative on the November ballot.

But residents still may be able to cast a vote on a separate gambling initiative if enough valid signatures are turned in by tomorrow.

Sean Wade, the author of the proposed Territorial Gaming Act, sued Guam Election Commission Executive Director Gerald Taitano in April after the commission rejected hundreds of signatures Wade submitted on petitions.

Wade was 459 signatures short of the 5,332 needed to place his initiative on the ballot, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Wade argued the commission improperly rejected some signatures and did not notify him within 20 days that his initiative had been rejected, as required by commission rules. He asked the court to order the commission to place the gambling initiative on the General Election ballot.

In June, Superior Court Judge Steven Unpingco ruled against Wade. Unpingco said there was no evidence presented to support a high error rate throughout Wade's petition. He also noted that Guam law requires the commission to verify all signatures, which would rule out statistical sampling, files state.

Wade appealed to Guam's Supreme Court.

Ruling

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision but on different grounds, according to a Supreme Court press release.

"The Superior Court found that the automatic acceptance scheme of the GEC regulation was inconsistent with the Guam Election Code's verification requirement," according to a Supreme Court press release.

"The Supreme Court disagreed with this finding, and found instead, that the GEC regulation is inconsistent with the Guam Election Code's 10 percent valid signature threshold requirement."

As a result, Wade's initiative failed to qualify for placement on the November ballot.

Gambling initiative

According to Taitano, a separate organization, Citizens for Economic Diversity, is working on a gambling initiative. That organization must submit 5,360 valid signatures by tomorrow, Taitano said.

"We are going to be concentrating on that later on this week after (today's) board meeting. Right now we are still dealing with the election," Taitano said.

The group wants to allow casino gambling in approved hotels, and wants to create a five-member Guam Casino Gaming Control Commission.

"They need to present the petitions. They have submitted some petitions but not sufficient to qualify at this time," Taitano said. "So they have a few more days to provide petitions and then we will count them."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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