Guam Senator Torres says earlier primary date will cut costs
Moving Guam’s primary election just a few weeks earlier could save taxpayers a significant amount of money, thanks to a new measure introduced by Senator Mary C. Torres today. If enacted, Torres’s legislation would cut down overtime costs for the Guam Election Commission by changing the date of the primary election to the first Saturday of August as well as expanding the timeline for filing nomination papers.
The measure arrives upon the recommendation of the Commission and the adverse impact of the primary election’s date on GEC’s workload requirement and expenses. Just last year, the Commission spent nearly $90,000.00 on overtime for the 2016 primary election alone. Moreover, at the recent budget hearing for the Guam Election Commission, Director Maria Pangelinan attributed the Commission’s high overtime costs to the time constraints placed on GEC staff under the current statute.
Under Guam law, nomination papers for candidates are due at least sixty days prior to the date for holding the primary. Absentee ballots are required to be mailed or transmitted by email to absentee voters within forty-eight hours of the request or within forty eight hours of certification of the ballots--depending on whichever is later.
As a result, the Guam Election Commission has roughly two weeks between the last day nomination papers are due and the date of the Primary to mail all off-island ballots. Moreover, workers at GEC are given merely an average of thirteen days from the certification of the primary election to mail off-island absentee ballots before the general election.
To remedy these constraints, Bill No. 156-34 amends language in Guam’s Primary Elections statute and moves up Guam’s primary election to take place on the first, rather than the third, Saturday of August in each election year. The bill further expands the timeline for filing nomination papers with the Commission from sixty days to ninety days prior to the primary.
According to Torres, by changing the deadline, the Guam Election Commission will have the advantage of 30 days of preparation after the date to file nominating papers and an additional three or four weeks of preparation between the primary and general elections—allowing GEC to conduct elections with better efficiency and without substantial overtime expenses.
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