CNMI Voters Go To Polls For Gubernatorial Runoff Election

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Incumbent Inos considered favorite to win another term

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 21, 2014) – Thousands of voters head to the polls today, Friday, in a runoff election that is widely seen as an uphill battle for Heinz Hofschneider-Ralph N. Yumul against the machinery of Gov. Eloy S. Inos-Ralph DLG. Torres, which enjoyed a commanding lead in the last general elections and was bolstered by the endorsement of two losing gubernatorial candidates.

While thousands of supporters of losing contenders Juan N. Babauta (Ind) and Edward "Tofila" M. Deleon Guerrero (Dem) may seal Inos-Torres’ victory, independent Hofschneider, however, "knows the game," saying he’s been battle-tested in a runoff race.

In the 2009 general elections, Hofschneider (then the Republican Party standard bearer) topped then-governor Benigno R. Fitial (Covenant) by a mere eight votes—the closest gubernatorial poll in the history of the CNMI. That paved the way for the first ever runoff race in CNMI electoral history.

In the ensuing runoff, Fitial and his running mate, Inos, won that race.

In the last Nov. 4 general elections, Inos and Torres, the Republican Party standard bearer, garnered a total of 6,342 votes, while the independent tandem of Hofschneider and Yumul got a total of 4,501 votes.

Inos got only 46.6 percent of the total votes cast, just about 4 percentage points less than the required 50-percent-plus-one rule that would have resulted in Inos being declared the winner outright, preventing a runoff election.

In this year’s runoff, both Inos and Hofschneider are confident they will get the support of the majority of voters.

Hofschneider said yesterday that "with the turning of the tide and the momentum" he is very optimistic that he and Yumul will take the election.

Hofschneider said he trust the people, that their messages have gone out, making them realize what’s at stake.

"I believe that we reached them and they are fully aware now of what is at stake here," said Hofschneider in an interview during his camp’s roadside waving along Beach Road in Susupe yesterday afternoon.

Contrary to earlier promises of a clean campaign, the public has been treated to a barrage of political mudslingings by some supporters of both camps right up to the eve of the runoff race.

Schedule

Polls will open at 7am and closed at 7pm today.

The seven-day early voting in the CNMI ended yesterday at 4pm, with 800 voting on Saipan, 108 on Tinian, and 120 on Rota.

Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero said the total number of early voters for the runoff is 5,310.

In the general elections, the total number of early voters for the CNMI was 4,471, according to official CEC election results.

Guerrero said they are well-prepared for today’s runoff election.

"Come out and vote. Express your right to vote," he said in his message to people.

Guerrero said that voting will take place at the same polling sites as the general election.

He disclosed that they added some election booths in Kagman and in Garapan to accommodate more voters and to eliminate crowding.

Regarding absentee ballots, Guerrero said they will count what they will get today, Friday, and the remaining will be counted late afternoon on Dec. 5.

He explained that absentee ballots have to be postmarked on or before election day and have to be received no later than 14 days after the election to be valid.

"So the 14 days is 5th of December," Guerrero said.

In the general election, the total number of absentee ballots was 2,280. Inos-Torres was strong with 1,186, compared to only 649 for the Hofschneider-Yumul team.

Guerrero said a boat left yesterday to get eight votes from the Northern Islands.

Manual counting will be tonight at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

To maintain peace and order, Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero said they will be doing the same thing they did in the Nov. 4 general elections.

Despite the fact that there are only two candidates for this runoff election, Deleon Guerrero said the number of polling places that have to be opened are the same as with the general election’s.

"So the same amount of resources will be committed to the election," he said.

The commissioner said part of the election plan is to make sure they install traffic cones, for example, on roadways so the people do not speed up.

He said there will be roving patrol officers that will go from one polling place to another just in case any of the supporters from any of the camps get out of hand.

Deleon Guerrero said he again assigned Sgt. Jose Saures to supervise the operations for the runoff election.

Elections in the CNMI are traditionally generally smooth and peaceful.

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