Moylan: Early in-office absentee voting should be made permanent

Early voters (PNC file photo)

One senator believes that early voting could benefit island citizens in a number of ways and should continue even after the pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, in order for island residents to be able to vote early, they must give proof to the Guam Election Commission stating their reasons why.

Acceptable reasons included leaving off-island around the voting period, job or school restrictions, unable to be present on election day, or interference with military duties.

However, because of the pandemic, the Legislature made the adjustments so that any qualified voter of Guam can vote early within a 30-day in-office period without the requirement of providing proof.

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Senator James C. Moylan introduced Bill 120-36 to permanently establish early in-office absentee voting.

Moylan went on air with Newstalk K57’s Pauly Suba and says although there wasn’t a great turnout in the last election, there were high numbers of early voters.

“In the past years, Maria Pangelinan, Guam Election Commission executive director, was telling us it would have 1,000, sometimes it would be as high as 3,000 early voters in other years. But during the pandemic, when this was allowed during the election, there were 12,000 early voters. That’s a record for them and the Guam Election Commission wants to, of course, increase the number of voters. That’s their duty and if we can get more people to vote by allowing this to continue, even after the pandemic, then that’s a good thing. We have more people interested to come in and give them more time to vote because it’s more convenient for them to come and vote,” the senator said.

Moylan says the one thing he stressed about the bill during the public hearing at the Congress Building on Tuesday was that early voting is not the same as mail-in voting.

“We’re not doing mail-in voting on Guam. If you’re off-island for some reason, whether for military training or your job is there for training or you’re there temporarily for school or there for medical, okay, then maybe the Election Commission will mail the ballot to you but no ballot would be mailed to the election commission, if I lived in Yigo, for example, and I just wanted to mail in my vote. No, that is not what this bill is doing. You would still have to go where the election commission says the early voting is taking place,” the senator said.

Moylan adds that during the public hearing, the Guam Election Commission was in support of the bill but had made a few recommendations on how to strengthen it.