Early voting for the Nov. 3 general election will go on even under a stay-at-home order or during the Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, Guam Election Commission officials said on Monday.
In-office absentee voting begins this Saturday, Sept. 19, and ends on Oct. 30.
In addition to the early voting at GEC's location at GCIC Building in Hagåtña, there will also be early voting at satellite locations in Merizo, Mangilao, Yigo and Dededo on certain Saturdays.
Safety plan transmitted
The election commission, led by Chairman Mike Perez, voted to adopt a resolution for an election safety plan, which was transmitted to the Legislature on Monday.
The law canceling the 2020 primary election, introduced by Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, includes GEC's Sept. 14 submission of a plan for safely conducting the general election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Mary Torres' amendment to the speaker's bill extended the in-office absentee voting from 30 days to 45 days prior to the general election, and expanded the in-office voting to any qualified voter on Guam.
GEC's safety plan covers everything from expanded early voting to disinfection of polling sites, mandatory wearing of masks, social distancing, and installing sneeze guards.
It includes the hiring of 150 additional personnel to help enforce safety measures, and a recommendation for voters to bring their own black or blue pen.
The plan also ensures the security of the ballots, including having peace officers from government agencies and/or a private security firm.
It also includes a continued partnership with the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
"Given the current pandemic, these protocols help ensure our citizens can exercise their right to vote, safely," Torres said. "I know the Guam Election Commission is working hard to carry out these early voting provisions and thank them for their consistent efforts to prioritize the safety of our public."
Here's the revised schedule for the early voting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.:
• Saturday, Sept. 26, Merizo Martyrs Elementary School in Merizo, on a first-come, first-served basis.
• Saturday, Oct. 3, George Washington High School in Mangilao, on a first-come, first-served basis.
• Saturday, Oct. 10, D.L. Perez Elementary School in Yigo, on a first-come-first-served basis.
• Saturday, Oct. 3, Okkodo High School in Dededo, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Registered voters can vote at any satellite location, regardless of village of residence. Individuals who are not currently registered to vote will be able to register and vote on site.
GEC said the schedule is subject to change.
During weekdays, here's the early voting schedule, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., by appointment:
• Monday to Friday, third floor of the GCIC Building in Hagåtña, from Sept. 21 to Oct. 30
GEC said scheduling an appointment to vote will allow GEC staff time to process each voter properly, sanitize frequently touched surfaces, and will limit the number of people in the polling room in an effort to practice social distancing.
Appointments also help mitigate long lines and, most importantly, help Guam minimize the spread of COVID-19, the commission said.
The GEC will not turn voters away, the commission stated.
GEC is again providing a daily manamko’ hour, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., reserved for senior citizens and people with disability.
Manamko’ hour applies to the daily early voting schedule, whether at GCIC or at satellite locations.
GEC reminds voters to wear a mask, bring a photo ID, and to bring a blue or black ink pen if possible.
Election commissioners projected about 9,500 early voters, about 17% of an estimated 56,000 registered voters.
Ballots for off-island voters will be sent this Friday, GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said.
The board approved the sending of general election ballots along with a federal write-in ballot, as suggested last week by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Off-island voters will only use the federal write-in ballot in the event there's a runoff election in the delegate race. Election commissioners said clear instructions should be included in the mailing of the ballots.
Limited people at election return center
Social distancing will be enforced at the election return center at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.
On the night of the election, only representatives from the first 30 precincts will be allowed to enter the election return center. This means only about 170 to 180 people will be there at any given time, instead of having about 400 all at once, in previous elections.
Those from the remaining precincts will enter the center as those from the earlier precincts clear out, according to the adopted GEC safety plan.
The whole process will be livestreamed so people can watch the proceedings without having to go to the center.
A limited number of media and political party representatives will be still allowed at the center at the election return center.