October 17, 2007

The Kaselehlie Press

Peilapalap, Pohnpei - According to a judgment handed down by Pohnpei Supreme Court on October 5, the long practiced single vote is unconstitutional and cannot be practiced in the next election or any election in the future.

Mr. Kolden E. Manuel, Pohnpei State Election Commissioner said that the idea is to make the election free and fair. He says that it has not been so in the past.

In Kitti, for example voters will be choosing four representatives to represent them in the legislature. The new judgment says that Kitti ballots containing votes for any fewer or any more than four candidates will be considered spoiled ballots and will be void.

Previously voters in Pohnpei could vote for any number of candidates up to the number of representatives for their municipality. Mr. Manuel explained the importance of the new judgment. Without saying that it had ever happened before he said that the single vote system allowed candidates with large numbers of family members and friends to have an unfair election advantage no matter what the candidate's governmental views were. He said that under the old system friends and family members could vote for just their candidate which artificially inflated the number of votes for that candidate and deprived all other candidates of their vote. In the old system it was common to have huge numbers of votes for wildly popular candidates while all of the rest of the candidates languished neck and neck at the bottom of the vote pool.

The old system could have been considered to be not much more than a popularity contest. Mr. Manuel agreed that the new ruling will go a long way toward helping Pohnpeians to make quality choices for their representatives.

Family members will still vote for their favorite candidate but will also have to vote for candidates to fill the rest of the seats in their municipality. What basis will they rest their decision on when they do so? Mr. Manuel hopes that once the relative or friend factor is out of the way the voter's decision will be based on which candidate the voter thinks is most qualified to be their representative rather than the one who bought them the most sakau or some other standard having nothing to do with the candidate's qualifications.

When asked if the new ruling might make it more likely that there will be runoffs, Mr. Manuel said that it might indeed do that but that the goal of elections is to make them free and fair and to eliminate unfair advantages. If there are runoffs it will be because the elections under the new Supreme

Court ruling have made the elections more fair. To help voters make informed decisions now that they will be forced to under the new ruling at least two organizations will be staging debates in the coming weeks. The College of Micronesia is holding debates for candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor.

This debate will do nothing to help voters make informed decisions for candidates for the legislature but will help them make informed choices for the executive branch. The U Development Society is planning a series of debates for all 62 candidates. The debates are currently scheduled for Sunday afternoons on October 28, November 4 and November 11.

More information on those debates will be forthcoming. Mr. Manuel said that all 62 candidates that applied have been cleared and will appear on the ballot.

Two candidates had previous felony convictions but received Governor's pardons for their crimes and are therefore eligible to run for office according to the Attorney General's office.

The Pohnpei State elections will be held on November 13. continued from page 1