Palau’s Congressional Reapportionment Commission is seeking a court ruling to delay this year’s general election scheduled for Nov. 1, stating that a postponement to Nov. 8 will guarantee allow absentee voters the opportunity to vote in the upcoming general election.
Represented by their counsel Assistant Attorney General Allison Trout, the commission called for the postponement of the election through a motion filed iFriday afternoon. The postponement , the motion stated will give time for the election commission to send out absentee ballots and off-islands voters will be able to mail it back to Palau by the day of the election day.
Disenfranchisement of overseas voters looms pending the appellate division’s ruling on the make-up of the Senate-11 or 13- member Senate.
“The Palau Election Commission (PEC) has stated that a one week postponement of the election would alleviate these concerns of timeliness. Appellant has taken the concerns of the PEC to heart and believes that it has a duty to bring these concerns to the Court’s attention,” the motion stated.
“Appellant believes that it is in everyone’s best interest to make sure this general is conducted in such a way that satisfies all aspect of the law,” it added.
The motion stated that the Supreme Court “has the power to postpone election.”
Also at issue is the potential constitutional violation if absentee ballots won’t reach outside voters in time for the Nov. 1 election, which will exclude a large segment of voters from exercising their right to elect their leaders.
There are at least 3,000 voters off-island.
Oral arguments on the appeal by the reapportionment commission to keep a 13-member Senate are scheduled today at the Supreme Court building at the Capitol at 1 p.m.
The Office of the President is “just learning about it and looking into reasons behind it,” Deputy Chief of Staff Rebluud Kesolei said in an interview.
Sen. Surangel Whipps Jr., a presidential candidate, said that the motion filed before the court to postpone the election is another option that could resolve the issue.
Whipps said that a bill has been filed Thursday at the Senate to ensure that ballots will be provided on time to the off-island voters.”
“ We are looking at options that is fair and that everyone will have the chance to voice out their vote.”
Senate Bill 9-212 proposed that off-island ballots be postmarked no later than Nov. 8 and would reach the election commission a week after.
Sen. Uduch Senior, chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Affairs does not agree with the option of postponing the elections.
“Attorney General dropped the ball on this reapportionment case. AAG should have filed a motion to stay justice Salii's decision,” Senior in an email stated.
Senior added that the court is the right venue to decide on the matter and it should not be a congressional issue.
Attorney General John Bradley meanwhile said that people should allow " the election process to be completed in a lawful, timely manner. We should be supporting the Election Commission and encouraging them to continue their good work protecting the fundamental right to vote."
There are also concerns raised that the Election Commission can't run the election smoothly due to lack of staff.
It is also facing several election lawsuits that led to the delays in the election commission operation.