By: L.N. Reklai
October 30, 2016 (Koror)Registering to vote while outside of Palau is ALLOWED according to judgment issued by the Trial Division of Palau’s Supreme Court in a Civil Action number 16-085 on October 27, 2016.
Court denied the Plaintiffs Richard Silmai, Joel Toribiong, Ephraim Ngirachitei, Moses Yobech, Israel Demei and Richard Sandei’s motion seeking court order to have Palau Election Commission “strike and remove the names of voters who registered outside of the Republic of Palau and to reject and not count their votes as invalid and null and void”.
Moreover the court granted Palau Election Commission’s motion for summary judgment that the plaintiffs’ claims are immaterial because they were based on wrong interpretation of the laws.
The court judgment states that the plaintiffs’ claims “fail as a matter of law” because none of the legal provisions provided by the plaintiffs prohibits absentee registration.
On September 15, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking court order to prohibit registering of voters outside of Palau, to strike out the names of those that have registered and to nullify any ballots cast by such persons. The Plaintiffs provided material facts in support of their complaint.
On September 26, Defendant (Palau Election Commission) filed its response saying that Title 23 of the Palau National Code allows registration of voters outside of Palau. On October 6, it filed a motion for summary judgment stating that the material facts presented by the Plaintiffs are based on wrong interpretations of the law and therefore are immaterial or have no relevance.
Plaintiffs (Silmai, Toribiong, Ngirachitei, Yobech, Demei & Sandei) filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.
The argument is based on the interpretations of 23 PNC 1401 and 1408. The Plaintiffs argue that the registration of applicant while outside of the Republic is prohibited by Section 1401(a) which states that a person qualified to vote “may register to vote in the administrative district in which he resides”.
Defendant (PEC) claims that Section 1401 (a) refers to a place that an applicant will be eligible to vote in upon registration.
Court stated that although Section 1401 (a) tends to support the Plaintiff’s interpretation, it is ambiguous and need to be read in context.
Furthermore, it states that when read with other statutory provisions, the Defendant’s interpretation is more consistent.
According to the judgment, voter registration is a “multi-step process” which can occur in different places and possibly in different days.
Court concludes that the language “register to vote in” in Section 1401 (a) of 23 PNC refers to the location the person will be eligible to vote in after he/she registers and not to the physical location of the applicant at the time of the registration. [/restrict]