Plebiscite In Focus

1... Who is eligible to vote in the forthcoming plebiscite?

2... What about those "native inhabitants" who relocated off-island? 

3... Separate  voter registry for plebiscite. 

4... Is the plebiscite a Chamorro-vote only?

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1... Who is eligible to vote in the forthcoming plebiscite?

    The following is an extract from the Plebiscite Voter Registrar's Manual published by the Guam Election Commission:

    Voter Eligibility Criteria:  Persons eligible to vote shall include those persons designated as Native Inhabitants of Guam or their descendant, defined within Chapter 21 of Title 3 of the Guam Code Annotated, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older on the date of the Political Plebiscite, and are registered voters of Guam.

    "Native Inhabitants" shall mean those persons who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons.

    "Descendant" shall mean a person who has proceeded by birth, such as a child or grandchild, to the remotest degree, from any Native Inhabitant of Guam, as defined in Subsection (e), and who is considered placed in a line of succession from such ancestor where such succession is by virtue of blood relations.

       The Organic Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on Aug. 1, 1950, initially established a limited self-government comprising of three equal branches -- the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. It installed a civilian governor appointed by the President, until 1972 when Congress amended the Act that provides for an elected governor. In 1974, Congress again amended the Act, giving Guam a non-voting delegate to Congress.

    From the beginning, the Legislature was an elected law-making body, initially comprising of  21 members elected at-large by the registered voters of Guam. A few years ago, the local lawmakers amended the Guam law to reduce the number  to 15.

    There were Spanish citizens, as well as citizens of other countries, who were on Guam in 1898 when Spain ceded Guam to the U.S. at the end of the Spanish-American War. Some of these people decided to remain on Guam and did not actively assert to reaffirm their citizenship in respective countries. Some married Chamorro women and raised their families, with Guam as their home island.

    One will note that in reviewing the family surnames of Guam inhabitants, they include surnames of Spanish, American, Japanese, Chinese and other national origins.

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2...What about those "native inhabitants" who relocated off-island?

    If these "native inhabitants" have left the island to make their residency in the U.S. mainland or elsewhere in the world and are no longer registered to vote in the Guam elections, they are not qualified to vote in the self-determination plebiscite to be conducted under the auspicies of the Guam Commission on Decolonization.  For example, those who are now living in the mainland and are now registered to vote in their current residency, are ineligible to vote in Guam elections.  They forfeit their right to vote in the Guam elections because Guam laws prohibit them from becoming registered voters in two different voting jurisdications at the same time. To be eligible to vote in Guam elections, one must maintain their Guam residency and are currently registered to vote in Guam.

    The Plebiscite Voter Registrar's Manual published by the Guam Election Commission states that "persons eligible to vote shall include those persons designated as Native Inhabitants of Guam or their descendant, defined within Chapter 21 of Title 3 of the Guam Code Annotated, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older on the date of the Political Plebiscite, and are registered voters of Guam."  Obviously, the two eligibility criteria are (1) be a qualified "native inhabitant" and (2) be registered to vote in Guam.

    In regular or special elections, absentee voting is authorized by Guam laws.  This pertains to those Guam residents who are absent from the island for a short or prolonged period of time for reasons of employment such as civil service jobs, medical treatment or serving in the U.S. military.  Although they are abroad, they maintain Guam as their legal residency and are current in their voter registration.

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3... Separate  voter registry for plebiscite. 

    The law pertaining to the self-determination plebiscite requires that a separate voter registry be created and maintained apart from the voter registry for other Guam elections. The Guam Election Commission is charged with conducting voter registration for the plebiscite and conducting the voting for the plebiscite.

    Eligible voters can register at the Guam Election Commision office located on the second floor of the GCIC Building in Agana from 8 am to 5 pm Monday thru Friday,  ten (10) days prior to the November 2 plebiscite in conjunction with the 2004 general elections.  Eligible voters may also register at their village mayor's offices  and through volunteer registrars certified by the Guam Election Commission.

   Registration may also take place at the Guam Community College, University of Guam, each high school or any other place within the village designated by the Commission.

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4... Is the plebiscite a Chamorro-vote only?

   Opponents and skeptics of the self-determination movement are arguing that the plebiscite is open to Chamorro voters only, saying that to be eligible to vote one must have Chamorro blood flowing in their veins. But this is not necessarily so.

   As stated in the voter registration manual published by the Guam Election Commission: "Native Inhabitants" shall mean those persons who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons... Descendant" shall mean a person who has proceeded by birth, such as a child or grandchild, to the remotest degree, from any Native Inhabitant of Guam, as defined in Subsection (e), and who is considered placed in a line of succession from such ancestor where such succession is by virtue of blood relations."

    It is true that the preponderance or majority of the eligible voters are of Chamorro descent since their ethnicity is derived from the indigenious native Chamorros who inhabited Guam for over 2000 years and who were on Guam when Magellan discovered the island in 1521. But following the Spanish contact and subsequent colonization in 1665, people of other races came to Guam, some of them deciding to remain when Spain ceded Guam to the U.S. in 1898 following the Spanish-American War.

   These included Spaniard, English, American, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican and citizens of other countries. They had one year from the American take-over to step forward and reaffirm to retain their respective country citizenship or choose to make Guam their home.

   During the 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, many of the Spanish soldiers and other races who came to Guam married Chamorro women and raised their families here.

Today, you see the surnames such as Artero, Leon Guerrero, Underwood, Anderson, Shimizu, Tanaka, Won Pat, Sholing, Limtiaco, Perez, Ramirez, Cruz that reflect the multi-ethnicity of the "native inhabitants" who were made U.S. citizens by the enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam by the U.S. Congress.

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