AG weighs in: Cancelling Guam primary election not likely a ‘violation of Constitution’ 

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The Attorney General of Guam, Leevin Camacho, has weighed in as requested on the constitutionality and legality of cancelling the Island’s Primary Election.

The opinion released Thursday morning, comes just hours before Senators are set to gather in-person for an Emergency Session in the Guam Congress Building to discuss and vote on a bill to cancel the primaries, in light of the recent spike in COVID-cases.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes introduced the measure last Sunday, which would advance all eligible Primary candidates straight to November’s General Election. The bill also proposes on-Island, mail-in voting for the General, to avoid pressuring residents into congregating to vote (risking exposure to COVID-19).

That prompted Senator Kelly Marsh to ask the Office of the Attorney General for a legal opinion on the proposed cancellation of this year’s primary election.

The senator said important questions have been raised concerning the rights of 2,284 voters who have already cast ballots at the GEC office, many of whom are manåmko’, people with disabilities, and others most at-risk of COVID-19.

In his opinion, the AG concludes:

Although the 2020 Primary Election has arguably begun, the Legislature has the authority to cancel a primary election. While time does not permit an analysis of specific federal election and voting laws, we posit that canceling a primary election would not likely constitute a per se violation of the Constitution, regardless of whether an election for federal office is involved. As with any election law, however, constitutional challenges are possible; such challenges would involve a court’s analysis of balancing the interests of the government against those of the individuals.

At the time of drafting the opinion, Guam’s positive case count surpasses 1,000, we’ve hit the highest number of cases reported in a day and lost two more lives to this unrelenting virus. Though it is not the role of this office to weigh in on the wisdom of canceling, postponing or moving forward with the Primary Election as currently scheduled, we understand the weight and gravity of this policy decision and hope this opinion helps move the discussion forward.

Here’s the full legal opinion: