Civille: clearing up the fuzzy math for auto-recount

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Last Thursday night, Independent Election Commissioner and attorney Pat Civille explained the automatic recount procedure that the Commission would follow this past weekend.

Guam – The formula was literally being set by the Guam Election Commission last Thursday night, August 30. Commissioners approved a mathematical equation that favored the challengers’ quest for a recount of August 25’s close Democratic gubernatorial primary. By final ballot count the following morning, August 26, GEC tabulators had put Lou Leon Guerrero and her running mate, Josh Tenorio ahead of Sen. Frank Aguon and his running mate, Alicia Limtiaco, by just 260 votes.

The law reads clearly enough, but the calculation for determining the threshold for two percent is apparently open to interpretation.

“If the tabulation indicates that a difference in votes is two percent (2%) or less, the Commission shall conduct a recount of the votes.”

—Title 3 Guam Code Annotated (GCA) Elections, Chapter 11. §11131. Recount

“There’s about 20 jurisdictions that have these automatic recount provisions, and they pretty much set out the formula – what you’re measuring against. We don’t have that,” Independent Commissioner and attorney Pat Civille said at Thursday’s GEC meeting. “So there are a couple of—there are actually several— different ways you could do the calculation, and that’s what you heard us discussing at such great lengths tonight.”

When one attempt to write a formula failed to gain board approval on Thursday, Civille offered an alternative that stuck.

Here’s the quick math on that.

First subtract Aguon/Limtiaco’s originally tabulated 7,958 votes from Leon Guerrero/Tenorio’s 8,218 votes, like this:

ELECTION RECOUNT FORMULA

  8,218 VOTES (Lou & Josh)

-7,958 VOTES  (Frank & Alicia)

     260 VOTES

Then add the total votes cast between these two top finishers, which equals 16,174 votes, as such:

ELECTION RECOUNT FORMULA

  8,218  VOTES (Lou & Josh)

+7,958  VOTES (Frank & Alicia)

  16,176 VOTES

Next multiply the 16,176 total votes by two percent. That number equals 323.52. And since the 260 vote difference is less than 323.52 votes (less than two percent), an automatic recount is triggered. Here is the final segment of the equation:

ELECTION RECOUNT FORMULA

16,176 VOTES X 2% = 323.52 VOTES

260 VOTES < 323.52 VOTES

AUTOMATIC RECOUNT!

Legal challenge in the offing…

Since the August 25 primary, PNC and poll watchers have been speculating whether the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary could wind up contested in court.

And the speculation now appears to be playing out in reality as Ken Leon Guerrero of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability reportedly prepares a lawsuit to challenge the ballot count this week. This past Saturday, a recount of preliminary primary election results showed Aguon/Limtiaco receiving just six more votes than reported the morning after the primary. But Ken Leon Guerrero and Aguon/Limtiaco have focused efforts on having about 900 some uncounted ballots closely scrutinized for voter intent and for counting the portions of those spoiled, damaged, or mismarked ballots that are clearly marked, in accordance with their interpretation of election law, to wit:

Guam Election Law

…if for any reason it is impossible to determine the voter’s choice for any office, the voter’s ballot shall not be counted for that office, but the remainder of the voter’s ballot, if properly marked, shall be counted.            —Title 3 GCA, Ch. 11, § 11114.

Regardless, Civille assured the public last Thursday that the commission’s work remains above board.

“Come on, what doesn’t end up in litigation?” Civille chuckled when asked whether he foresees a lawsuit. “I hope it doesn’t. You know, actually, let me be very serious about that. We take the duty to conduct a fair election absolutely seriously. Our staff is dedicated to it. [Guam Election Commission Executive Director] Maria Pangelinan is absolutely dedicated to it, and the commissioners. You know, I’m Independent, but the party commissioners actually work very cooperatively for an honest, fair election.”