Guam, where America’s day begins.
In December, I had the privilege to travel to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to visit election offices from both territories. I joined Maria Pangelinan, Executive Director of the Guam Election Commission (GEC), Kayla Igitol, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Election Commission (CEC), and a few of their election board members in meetings with their respective Governors, congressional delegations, and legislatures. There were good discussions about the work of the Commissions and how to improve the voting process for Americans living on the islands.
The meetings were also valuable opportunities to hear about some of the difficulties in getting ballots to remote islands in the archipelago and back – for example, one island in the Northern Mariana Islands does not have electricity or running water, and supplies and mail are sent via ship once every 4-6 weeks. I was also able to share about the EAC, our role in elections, and work with Guam and CNMI.
Throughout my trip, there were constant reminders about the pivotal role Guam played in our continued democracy during World War II. In looking to the future, one of my favorite parts of the trip was being able to address the Guam Youth Congress – the next generation of leaders. It was very inspiring to see their enthusiasm and drive. I believe that getting the youth involved in the process at an early stage could mean that they stay involved through their entire life.
It was also great to learn more about the partnership between the GEC and the University of Guam, which won one of the EAC’s 2022 Clearinghouse Awards. The GEC worked with the University to offer an academic credit bearing class on election administration, which included a practicum of working as a Precinct Official or Election Assistant at polling sites. It was exciting to hear about GEC and the University’s plans for this program and the potential for it to be replicated at other universities.
While traveling to these various meetings, I got to see the incredible beauty and learn about life on the islands. We also saw the impacts of recent typhoons and the presence of military bases, which contribute to additional considerations for the GEC and CEC to handle as they conduct their elections. It was a valuable experience learning how their circumstances as an island archipelago and being able to directly observe the lengths the Commissions go to ensure voters who wish to vote can do so. It was also a good reminder of the dedication that characterizes the election administration community in working to make sure all eligible citizens can cast their ballots and have those ballots counted accurately.
Thank you to the GEC, CEC, and especially Maria Pangelinan, for hosting me for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.