Palau Election Commission (EC) mailed out 2,253 absentee ballots to Palauan citizens outside of Palau this Thursday, for the upcoming General Election on November 3.
This is the first wave of outgoing absentee ballots for the General Election. Ballots were sent to all those citizens abroad who sent a request to the EC and these include those who requested ballots for the Primary Election. The EC says that it can accept requests up to seven days before the election.
The EC asserts that, according to law, returning absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than the day of the election and arrive to the EC no later than the seventh day following the election, November 10.
This timeline has caused some concern among members of the government and the Palau Post Office, who worry that it may not be enough time for citizens abroad to receive and return ballots, due to the reductions of cargo flights to one every week. President Tommy E. Remengesau has previously commented that the government will “bear the wrath of the Palauan people” if large number of Palauans abroad are excluded from the vote due to insufficient time.
However, Ms. Maria Decherong-Simer, Election Commissioner of the EC, says that the EC is mandated by law to observe the deadline. Extending the deadline would require a change in law, and no such change has occurred. In August, President Remengesau submitted a bill proposing to extend the deadline submission from seven to ten days following the election, but the bill has not made it to the floor of both houses.
Despite this, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has said that it is prioritizing shipment of ballots above regular mail.
Ms. Simer confirmed that some absentee ballots were received by the EC after the deadline for the Primary Election and had to be disqualified. However, she said that the late ballots, “totaling a number less than one-hundred”, were likely to have had little effect on the results of the Primary, especially considering the wide disparity between the number of votes each candidate received.
The EC maintains that the best way to ensure that ballots are received and counted is for voters abroad to be mindful of the deadlines for requesting and returning the ballots.

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