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By Gemma Q. Cassas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 2) – The selling and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be banned for 12 hours tomorrow as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands elects lawmakers, and members of municipal councils and the Board of Education; votes on the retention of one justice and three judges; and considers four initiatives, including two on casino legalization.

Gregorio Sablan, executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission, said 15,184 have registered to vote.

Public Law-12-18, he added, prohibits the selling, purchasing or dispensing of alcoholic beverages while the polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Department of Commerce will be the lead agency in enforcing the liquor ban.

Any person found violating this rule faces a civil fine of US$1,000 or imprisonment for 100 days or both.

Decision time

Sablan said voters should exercise their right to suffrage in this historic election.

"We’ve worked so hard for this election and we hope that everyone votes," he told Variety.

On the ballot are House Legislative Initiative 15-1, which will create a new commission to license post-secondary institutions in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; House Legislative Initiative 15-26, to require a runoff election for governor and lt. governor if the winning team fails to get 50 percent plus one of the votes cast; and two popular initiatives that seek to legalize casinos on Rota and Saipan.

In order to be ratified, the two legislative initiatives must get majority support from voters.

The two popular initiatives must get two-thirds of the votes.

This means, that on Saipan, which has 12,349 registered voters, the casino initiative must get at least 8,232 votes.

On Rota, which has 1,564 registered voters, the casino initiative must get over 1,000 voters.

For the House of Representatives, voters will elect 18 on Saipan and one each on Rota and Tinian.

Three Senate seats are up for grabs — one each for Rota, Saipan and Tinian.

Voters will also decide whether they want to retain Supreme Court Justice John A. Manglona, Presiding Judge Robert Naraja, Associate Judge Ramona V. Manglona, and Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo.

Justice Manglona’s term is expiring on May 8, 2008. A justice serves an eight-year term.

Naraja’s six-year term will expire on May 27, 2009.

Judge Manglona’s six-year term is set to expire on May 29, 2009 while that of Govendo will expire on June 29, 2009.

Registered voters will also select their representatives to the Board of Education — two from Saipan and one for Rota – as well as the three-member municipal councils of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

All set

Sablan said they have prepared extensively for this year’s election despite their limited number of staff members.

"As best as we can," said Sablan. "These people are good," referring to his staff members.

This election year, Sablan said they would use more public school classrooms as polling places, specifically in Garapan and San Vicente due to the reapportionment of the election districts.

Northern Marianas College will not be used as a polling place this year.

Sablan said more than 100 poll workers will be deployed to ensure that the election goes smoothly.

Today, some of them will visit polling places and tear down campaign signs that violate the 300-feet-away rule.

Sablan said political candidates should be mindful of election rules.

"Candidates running for public office make the laws and expect us to enforce them. The least that they can is respect those laws that they make…. People are watching (them)," he said.

The election commission will begin the automated counting of the votes by midnight after the election at the multi-purpose center in Susupe.

Marianas Variety

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