A class at the College of the Marshall Islands has been in action to promote voting awareness and encourage students to vote in Monday’s national election.
As part of their class project, about 30 students from CMI 101 sections two and three last week created posters, charts, surveys, and flyers with election-related content and posted them around the campus.
“The main goals are to create awareness about the elections amongst the CMI community and to encourage civic participation on polling day,” said instructor Gade Maitokana. “These students have also been posting the election day countdown on their social media platforms to spread the word with #MakeYourVoteCount.”
“It is time to show that we are willing to utilize our rights,” said Elijah Aiseia, a Liberal Arts major. “We raised awareness to remind people of our age to make the decision for themselves when it comes to voting. They shouldn’t be influenced to vote for someone because it’s their relatives or friends; they should choose candidates based on their characters and values.”
“We need to vote in order to address the problems and concerns that surround our islands,” said Francisa Enos, an Education major. “Most importantly, men have been getting more votes. What about the women? I feel, as voters, we need to elect more women to serve in national and local government positions.”
According to data collected by the CMI 101 class, the lowest voter turnout ever recorded was 39 percent. “We hope that in 2023, the voter turnout will be much better than the 39 percent in 2019,” said Maitokana.
—Reporting by Wilmer Joel
IN OTHER ELECTION NEWS:
A total of 3,752 postal absentee ballots were mailed to Marshallese voters living overseas, according to the Marshall Islands Postmaster Dexter Jikit.
The last batch of ballots went out Wednesday November 15 on the United Airlines flight, while 1,025 ballots were mailed Monday November 13.
To be eligible to be counted, a postal ballot covering reply envelope must be postmarked no later than November 19 since this is the same day on the other side of the International Dateline as the November 20 national election is held in RMI. As November 19 is a Sunday, this effectively means that Marshallese voters must mail their postal ballots no later than Saturday November 18 in order to qualify.
There is a two-week window from November 20 for the postal ballots to arrive. This means the postal votes will not be tabulated until after December 4, the last day that mailed ballots can be accepted.
The domestic votes are usually all tabulated by the Friday following the election. This means by the end of next week, it is likely there will be a final unofficial result for domestic votes. But it will be over a week after the domestic votes are completely counted before the postal ballots can also be tabulated, delaying a final result until the end of the first week of December at the earliest.
The Electoral Administration has received floods of complaints the past few days from Marshallese living overseas in regards to what prospective voters say are problems stemming from the postal ballots.
CEO Ben Kiluwe and his staff have worked around the clock to include Saturdays and Sundays to ensure postal ballots are sent off and ready for the November 20 National Election Day.
But the complaints keep coming, an Electoral data analyst multitasking with answering emails and preparing documents for absentee ballots told the Journal Tuesday.
“We received all sorts of complaints regarding the postal ballots,” Ben told the Journal. “We have people dropping their ballot in mud puddle and asked what to do since the specimen got wet, then there are those complaining about receiving the ballots but without the return envelope,” Ben said. The complaints are endless, Ben said, but our team is dedicated to shoot out the last of the postal ballots by Wednesday this week.
A total of 3,752 postal absentee ballots were mailed to Marshallese voters living overseas, with 1,672 of these ballots mailed from Majuro this week.
Whether the ballots arrive in people’s doorsteps on time prior to voting day is not within the control of the Electoral Administration, Ben said.
Namdrik Senate hopeful and a vocal voice for the Marshallese population in Northwest Arkansas Albious Latior expressed concerns on his social media platform. He said people are anxious and always checking their mailboxes for their postal absentee ballots. He said there are a good number of people who have yet to receive their ballots in the mail. He also said some of the people who got their ballots are complaining about missing documents.
Meanwhile back at the Electoral Administration headquarters at the International Conference Center, Ben and his staff made final adjustments this week prior to a massive deployment to the outer islands.
Ben planned to dispatched his outer islands mobile teams this week before the November 20 voting day.
“The ships and the teams are ready,” Ben said. “We have been working closely with multiple vessels and should be out on the water by Wednesday,” he added. “But then we experienced a hiccup with the MV Kwajalein that was to cater to the Kwajalein, Kabinmeto and Rongelap route. Latest reports said the Kwajalein is experiencing mechanical problems and won’t be available. So, we are utilizing AMI to drop off the ballots with authorized personnel on Kabinmeto (Ujae, Lae and Wotho). We are also handing over boxes at Enewetak. The only difference is Rongelap. Because we have no authorized and trained personnel on the ground on Rongelap, we are going to have the community pre-vote when the plane lands.”