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At 7pm Monday, after the Marshall Islands national election concludes, a system for postal absentee ballot voting will return to the Marshall Islands, according to an agreement signed this past week by government officials and attorneys for Marshallese who successfully sued the government over the postal ban established by Public Law 2016-028.
Voting in the every-four-year national election takes place from 7am to 7pm Monday.
The agreement is a result of the country’s Supreme Court ruling last month that P.L. 2016-028 eliminating voting by postal ballots was unconstitutional because it denied many thousands of voters living in the U.S. the right to vote without offering an alternative system.
Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s opinion, which said there was not adequate time for the government to put the postal ballot system into play for the November 18 election, the ruling voiding the parliament law takes effect after the November 18 election.
The “stipulation” signed Tuesday involves Marshall Islands Attorney General Richard Hickson and attorneys Jack Jorbon and Atbi Riklon for Betwel Lekka and Tiantaake Beero-Sexton for Evelyn Konou and Anna Lehman. Lekka, Konou and Lehman filed lawsuits in late March and April this year challenging the law banning postal voting by offshore Marshallese.
The stipulation includes the following agreements:
•There is a constitutional right for all Marshallese citizens, whether they reside within the Marshall Islands or outside the Marshall Islands, to vote.
•The Constitution does not require a particular voting method, such as postal ballots, for overseas voters.
•P.L. 2016-028 is unconstitutional because it eliminated postal ballots and failed to provide an alternative, which results in unequal treatment of different classes of voters.
•P.L. 2016-028 is null and void at the close of election day, 18 November, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s opinion.
•With the termination of P.L. 2016-028 after the November 18 election, the Elections and Referenda Act 1980 “shall automatically be reinstated and restored to pre-P.L. 2016-028 status on the same date.”
The meaning of this is that as of Monday night, as polling stations shut down in the Marshall Islands, the postal absentee ballot system will be back in place for any future election.
SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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