Kosraean voters living in Pohnpei will head back to the polls on April 18 for a run-up election to settle a dispute over the congressional race for Kosrae’s four-year at-large seat.
The Federated States of Micronesia National Election Office has slated the revote after finding that the March 5 election was marred by irregularities that affected 20 voters.
Election director Tony Otto upheld the protest filed by Aren Palik, who lost the four-year Kosrae seat to Yosiwo George — FSM’s incumbent vice president— by 10 votes.
Based on the certified election results, George received 1,824 votes, while Palik got 1,814 votes.
“Palik's petition raised concerns over seven alleged voter irregularities at the special polling places in Hawaii and Pohnpei,” Otto stated in the notice of revote.
The elections director said an investigation found “sufficient evidence” that a shortage of ballots at the Pohnpei special polling place “prevented 20 eligible timely arriving Kosrae voters from casting their votes.”
The special polling place experienced a ballot deficit because the number of Kosrae voters who showed up to vote was larger than anticipated, Otto said.
“The law regarding voter IDs provides that a person with a voter ID may vote at any designated special polling place,” the notice of revote states. “To minimize the potential for error or fraud, special polling places were supplied with the number of ballots matching the number of voters included on the approved signature lists plus an additional 10 percent to accommodate voter ID holders.”
Otto said George's response to Palik's petition did not address the ballot shortage issue and offered no opposition to his rival’s request for a revote.
The FSM Congress comprises 14 senators who are elected to either a four-year (at-large) or two-year term. Each state has one at-large representative holding four year terms. The president and vice president are selected by congressional members among the four at-large state representatives. The incumbent president Peter Christian lost his at-large seat to David Panuelo.
In granting Palik's petition, Otto noted that “the margin of victory by the prevailing candidate was 10 votes, whereas 20 voters at the Pohnpei special polling place were wrongfully deprived of their right to vote.”
“The applicable law provides that the National Election director shall grant a petition for revote where he or she determines that the petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that it is more likely than not that the fraud or error complained of could have resulted in the election of a candidate who would not have won had the fraud or error not occurred,” the notice states.
The runup election will take place at the FSM National Election Office in Palikir, Pohnpei from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The revote will only be for those Kosraean voters who timely applied to vote absentee at the Pohnpei special polling place prior to the March 5th, 2019 election—and those with valid voter IDs obtained prior to March 5th, 2019,” the election office said.