With a total of 8,212 Palauans turning out at the polls this past Tuesday, the unofficial results have shown that 2,651 Senate votes were write-ins, a record which the Election Commission Office (EC) deemed “historical”.
This is 32% of the total votes cast, a percentage higher than nine of the official candidates received.
The general election saw a number of heavy-hitting Palauans garnering public support as write-ins for Senate, some of whom have campaigned as write-ins and others of whom have been chosen by community supporters as write-in candidates, such as former-President Johnson Toribiong.
Ms. Rolynda Jonathan, one of the Election Commission Board members said that this past week’s polls have turned out a much higher number of write-ins than Palau has seen in any recent election.
“We did not expect the sheer amount of write-ins,” said Ms. Jonathan. “This is definitely a historical number.” She noted that the write-in votes had given the tabulators more work than they’d anticipated, in many cases forcing them to decipher handwriting.
The election particularly saw a trend of young Palauan voters writing in their votes for Senate.
28-year-old Meked Gordon, who wrote in a candidate, says she did so because she “wants change”.
“I don’t believe in the idea of voting for people just because we’re related to them or because of how popular their name is,” Ms. Gordon said. “I voted for a candidate I believed showed strong integrity.”
A write-in candidate who garnered widespread support was 33-year-old Blodak Quichocho from Kayangel, who joined in the running several weeks before the General Election. Mr. Quichocho began door-to-door and internet campaigning in October.
“Blodak seems to have gotten support out of nowhere,” said 28-year-old Iesha Tulop. “But I’ve seen nothing but positive remarks about him and I think he would have been a great addition to the Senate.”
27-year-old Michael Mutok Jr. also said that he voted for Blodak because of his “integrity”.
“I chose [Blodak] for Senate because he has integrity, strong principles . . . and honesty,” said Mr. Mutok. “He is not the son of any former politician or any rich business family; he is a young man who started from scratch to make himself well-known to the people of Palau.”
The Senate tabulations also produced what seemed to be the unusually high number of 1,079 voided votes, but the EC has said that this number is a misrepresentation caused by the software being used for the tabulations, with the actual number of voided votes standing at 83.
The “US-grade” machinery which was used to electronically tabulate the ballots for the General Election used a software that tallied voided ballots by counting the 13 Senate seats on each ballot, rather than the single ballot, said Ms. Jonathan.
A ballot section is voided when a voter “overvotes”, or miscounts and fills in more than the allotted number. With the Senate representing 13 seats, if someone were to fill in more than that number on the Senate section of their ballot, their votes would be dismissed in the tabulation. Traditionally, this would be considered a single voided ballot for Senate. The new software, however, counts all 13 seats for every voided ballot, in effect multiplying the number by 13.
Ms. Jonathan says that, according to the traditional method of counting votes, the number of voided ballots for Senate is 83. This number, she said, is considered typical.
“This is a technical problem we’re sorting out for the final tabulation,” said Ms. Jonathan. “We want to make sure our tallies are being represented accurately. But rest assured that all votes are being counted fairly.”
The “challenge period”, in which candidates can still challenge the results of the tabulation, is 15 days long, according to Ms. Jonathan. Official results of the election are expected to be declared on November 17.

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