In response to Tuesday’s action by the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee to split off the primary election for delegate to the U.S. Congress from other primary races for this election season only, Delegate Donna M. Christensen Wednesday said it would be too confusing.
“Such a move puts an unfair burden on the voter and will adversely impact turnout,” she wrote in a letter to the senators.
The bill is slated to be on the agenda for Thursday’s and Friday’s full Senate sessions.
The federal law mandates that primaries for federal office holders be held the first Saturday in August to give the Board of Elections time to get absentee ballots out to members of the military at least 45 days before the November general election. The territory currently holds primaries the second Saturday in September. If the territory does not comply, it faces sanctions from the federal government.
The bill passed Tuesday will separate the two primaries for this year only. In 2014, all the primaries will be held the first Saturday in August.
Christensen indicated that while about 20,000 people turn out for a general election, 7,000 to 8,000 vote in primaries.
“I daresay that with an unprecedented two scheduled primaries, one for the delegate’s race and another a month later for everyone else, the situation is bound to create confusion in the minds of the electorate,” Christensen wrote.
Christensen also addressed the Board of Election’s financial woes, noting that the board said publicly it does not have enough money to hold one primary and one general election but is now faced with holding three elections.
She said that since the Board of Elections has considerable experience so there was no need to “reinvent the wheel.”
Christensen said that the primary must and should include everyone seeking office as a member of a recognized political party.
“Anything less would not be worthy of the high standards by which our local elections have traditionally been conducted,” she concluded.