Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a correction to statements made by Commissioner Joaquin Perez regarding a hand recount in 2016. The GEC clarified that the recount was through machine tabulation.
The Guam Election Commission will not be conducting another recount and will therefore not be conducting a hand count of ballots.
The commission was responding to multiple requests for a hand count, including one from the gubernatorial team of Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. and Alicia Limtiaco – the presumptive second-place finishers in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Ken Leon-Guerrero and Andri Baynum also requested a hand count. The men are initiating a write-in campaign for Aguon-Limtiaco in the general election.
Aguon and Limtiaco said they remain steadfast and are discussing their next steps, raising the possibility of the primary gubernatorial race landing in court.
"It is our position that we are entitled to a hand count in accordance with the law and we again renewed our request for the hand count with the GEC," the Aguon-Limtiaco team stated in a news release.
Aguon-Limtiaco asked for the review and examination of ballots "referred to and/or designated as spoiled, rejected, defective, void, voidable; ballots reviewed during the reconciliation/resolution process; ballots wherein the vote tabulating device registered invalid votes or ballots, and other ballots referenced in our earlier requests."
The team added, "Since those ballots necessarily involved both the discretion and hand count by GEC and/or election officials, a recount via hand count is necessary to replicate that process."
Aguon and Limtiaco said they're disappointed with the commission's denial of their request, particularly with the Democratic commissioners who led the rejection.
"Unfortunately, the motion for a recount was denied by our Democratic Party representatives on the commission," stated Limtiaco, a former attorney general.
"It is critical and significant to state that this is the first time in the history of Guam since the 1970s that the gubernatorial race within the Democratic Party has been as close as it is this 2018 primary election, with the difference in votes being less than 2 percent," Aguon stated. "We are deeply humbled and thankful by the outpouring of support during this past week."
Last Saturday's recount was automatically initiated after a newly adopted formula showed there was a 2 percent difference between Aguon-Limtiaco and the Democratic gubernatorial team of Lou Leon Guerrero and Josh Tenorio.
This was conducted through machine tabulation, however.
Commissioner Jerry Crisostomo said his concern was that the recount led to six more votes in favor of Aguon-Limtiaco but all counts for other gubernatorial campaigns stayed the same.
He said a hand count would validate the machine tabulation as well as ensure public accountability.
"I want to address this request. I think it's a fair request," Crisostomo said.
Commissioner Patrick Civille said the GEC had spent a great deal of effort and money ensuring accurate tabulation and the challengers have not presented any evidence to cause the commission to question the accuracy of the machines.
"We have not been presented with any reason to question the accuracy of the machine tabulation," Civille said.
"I don't think we'll jeopardize public confidence by standing behind the machine recount," he added later.
GEC legal counsel Vincent Camacho said Guam's election law permits a hand recount but does not require it. The commission should consider timing and resources, the legal counsel added.
Commissioner Joaquin Perez said a hand recount in 2016 between then-candidate Joe San Agustin and then-Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes took three days to complete for just six precincts. There are 67 precincts in total.
However, the GEC clarified that the recount in 2016 was machine counted and included all precincts. A hand count was conducted of six precincts in 2014. This was considered an audit and requested by Perez on behalf of the campaign by the then-gubernatorial team of Carl Gutierrez and Gary Gumataotao.
The commission hasn't paid its precinct officials yet and has no money to hire additional personnel to complete a hand recount.
Perez appeared irritated, asking fellow commissioners if GEC would go through a hand recount each election. He said the commission should just get rid of the machines if that were the case.
"Are we going to do this every election? If that's the case, let's get rid of the machines," Perez said.
Vote on recount
Commissioners needed to vote first on another recount before they could vote on whether to use a hand count.
Commissioners first ended on a tie. Commissioners Crisostomo, Michael Perez and Jadeen Tuncap voted for a recount. Commissioners Joaquin Perez, Joseph Mafnas and Civille were against another recount.
Alice Taijeron, as chairwoman, was the tie-breaker vote against a recount.
Prior to voting, Taijeron said she had every confidence in the GEC staff and that the primary election was conducted fairly.
"I am very comfortable with how this election took place," Taijeron said, adding later, "I do not question the poll watchers, precinct officials, parties, gubernatorial teams. ... From the get-go there are processes that are in place and have been in place for many years and we continue to improve upon it."