Bill 45-34, a piece of major election reform intended to eliminate primaries on Guam, has again failed to pass the Legislature. Discussion in session revolved around the technical ramifications of the measure.

Early in session, Sen. Joe San Agustin, the bill's author, stated that a Nov. 29 letter from the Guam Election Commission acknowledged that the understanding of a majority vote was 50 percent of votes plus one. However, San Agustin said the code of law the election commission cited made reference to all other votes except candidate elections. Elections only require a majority in terms of the most votes, San Agustin said.

Bill 45 was returned to committee during the October session in order to clarify and amend several aspects brought up on the floor.

But lawmakers continued to levy concerns during session yesterday. After a brief recess to look over the corrected Bill 45, Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje said San Agustin's statements did not appear consistent with what was stated by the GEC.

Terlaje: 'It's not consistent'

"I'm concerned that what's being represented might be correct but it's not consistent with what the Guam Election Commission wrote to us after we sent this bill back to committee. ... I think we use a plurality in the code when we talk about (most votes cast)," Terlaje said.

The vice speaker also noted the possibility of a runoff by eliminating the primary election and the need to clarify in Guam law how runoff elections would proceed.

Sen. James Espaldon said the definition of "majority" was still unclear.

"Because there is a difference of opinion of what 'majority' means, that becomes the issue and topic that would have to then be addressed in court. So that is not specifically spelled out here," Espaldon said.

Independent candidates

The senator added, however, that Bill 45 would allow more candidates to run in the general election and that this was a positive attribute.

"However, several terms ago, there was an effort by former Sen. Chris Duenas to get the same results. ... His approach was to make it easier for independent candidates to go directly to the general election," Espaldon said.

He added that this appeared to make sense and that he believed easing restrictions on independent candidates may be a more appropriate approach.

"I think there's still a lot of questions that need to be answered ... before we can pass on this election reform and I don't think we've done that yet," Espaldon said. "So as much as I admire the fortitude of the sponsor in pushing this forward, I have a hard time supporting this bill. I believe in the end it will cost us more money and may delay the transfer of power from one administration to (another), and may also convolute the congressional race."

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