Need for absentee voting bill questioned

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Bill 375, which proposes scrapping the entire primary, was debated today by lawmakers, dividing senators on both sides of the aisle.

The Legislature’s emergency session today was devoted to debate on Bill 330-35 — a measure introduced by Senator Kelly Marsh that would allow for absentee voting in the event of a public health crisis like the one we are now in the midst of.

However, Senator Mary Torres pointed out that current election law already allows for on-island absentee voting.

“What is it about this bill that adds anything to what is already provided in 10101? I mean it states right out of the gate any qualified voter on Guam may vote by absentee ballot,” Torres said.

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Lawmakers Senator Kelly Marsh answered: “It should minimize any challenges to that by taking that discretionary part out of it and saying everybody absolutely at this time during a state of emergency has that right.”

Amendment

Senator Amanda Shelton introduced an amendment that proposed the creation of satellite voting centers to limit the spread of COVID by minimizing large gatherings at polling sites and maximizing social distancing.

Lawmakers called members of the Guam Election Commission in on Thursday afternoon to answer their questions about the amendment.

GEC Director Maria Pangelinan expressed concern about the security of the ballots and the lack of time and cost to create satellite voting centers.

Senator Shelton withdrew her amendment and Senator Marsh’s bill was advanced to the voting file after which senators recessed for the day.

The Emergency Session resumes today at 2 p.m. when senators are expected to vote on Senator Marsh’s absentee voting bill and Senator Moylan’s bill to cancel the primary election.

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