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Less than 1 percent separate gubernatorial candidates

By Erin Thompson HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 5, 2010) – For the opposing gubernatorial teams, today's Guam Election Commission (GEC) meeting might mean victory, or the end of the line.

The commission will meet for the first time since Tuesday's General Election to review the unofficial election results and discuss any issues that arose during the voting process, as well as receive complaints from the political parties, according to GEC board member John Terlaje.

Based on the issues brought up by board members, the commission could either move to certify the results, or address the issue of a recount.

"We're hopeful that they'll certify," said Calvo-Tenorio’s campaign manager, Franklin Arriola.

Vince Arriola, executive director of the Guam Democratic Party, said Wednesday that he expected the Gutierrez-Aguon campaign would ask for a recount based on the close margin of victory between the two candidates.

Unofficial results from Tuesday's gubernatorial election showed the Calvo-Tenorio campaign pulling ahead of the Democratic gubernatorial team with 19,879 votes, or 50.38 percent of the vote. The Gutierrez-Aguon team had amassed 19,296 votes, or 48.90 percent of the vote.

According to Guam law, the GEC is within its discretion to issue a recount in elections that are deemed close. But the statute does not define what makes a close election, said Cesar Cabot, legal counsel for the Guam Election Commission. He said even if past boards had decided one way, the sitting board can decide whether a vote is close enough to require a recount.

GEC Executive Director John Blas said that a margin of less than 2 percent has been used by the GEC in past elections as a threshold for a recount, but said the board would make the determination.

In 2006, however, despite a margin of approximately 800 votes between the Republican and Democratic camps, the GEC voted to certify the election of Gov. Felix Camacho and Lt. Gov. Mike Cruz.

However, if the commission does decide on a recount and if the tallies change significantly it brings up the possibility of a runoff election, said Kaleo Moylan, a former Republican lieutenant governor and former gubernatorial candidate, who is a local expert on political issues.

Moylan, who noted that only one runoff has taken place in Guam's history, said that if the election commission decides to include previously uncounted provisional ballots or absentee votes, it could push the Calvo-Tenorio campaign below the 50 percent threshold.

Runoff elections are required for gubernatorial teams who don't receive a majority of the votes cast in any election or 50 percent of voters plus one, according to the Organic Act of Guam.

Moylan said approximately 160 votes in the recount would have to switch to either write-in candidates or to the opposing gubernatorial team to trigger a runoff.

Republican board member Joe Mesa said he thought the possibility of a runoff unlikely.

"I don't see that happening," Mesa said.

Mesa said that typically in recounts you see the same results as the first tally.

In 2004, the Guam Election Commission spent two weeks hand counting the results of a senatorial race between Republican Joanne Brown and Democrat Ben Pangelinan due to a small margin of votes between the two candidates, who were vying for the 15th legislative spot. While the recount changed Brown's lead by a handful of votes, the ultimate result of the race did not change.

"I can't envision the machines finding enough bad ballots to move the winning percentage under 50 percent, but it could happen," said Terlaje.

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