NOTICE | Voting rights | Views

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As we look forward to the November elections, questions are being raised about who is eligible to vote here at the CNMI and who is disqualified from voting.

Article VII of the Commonwealth Constitution states:

Section 1: Voters Qualifications. A person is eligible to vote who, on the date of the election, is eighteen years of age or over, is domiciled in the Commonwealth, is a resident of the Commonwealth and has resided in the Commonwealth for a specified period of time by regulation, is not serving time for a felony, has not been declared insane by a court, and is either a citizen or national of the United States. The legislature may require that persons eligible to vote be citizens of the United States.

Section 2. Prohibition of Literacy Requirement. A person cannot be denied the right to vote because he cannot read or write.

Section 3. Domicile and Residence….

See also 1 CMC § 6201.

Problems seem to arise when a person is or has been in prison, or when a person is perceived to be mentally limited, or when a person is unable to read or write. However, just because a person has been in jail or appears incompetent or cannot read or write does not disqualify them from voting. Our CNMI constitution protects the right to vote, and disqualification is limited and specific.

Persons “serving a sentence for a crime” include those on parole or probation or on conditional sentences after being convicted of a crime. “Disqualification, however, ends when the person has served their sentence or the suspension, probation or parole has expired…and also ends with the granting of a pardon.” Analysis of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, art. VII, § 1, p. 123 (December 6, 1976). Note that this section refers to a felony conviction, not a misdemeanor conviction.

Disqualification of persons found to be insane by a court includes “insanity determinations in criminal courts, insanity determinations in civil commitment proceedings, and insanity determinations in any other type of judiciary process”. Analysis of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, art. VII, §1, p. 124 (December 6, 1976)

The ban on the literacy requirement “prohibits the use of any literacy test as a qualification for voting…[and] applies to all requirements that a person demonstrate an ability to speak, read or write any language, including English, Chamorro and Carolinian…[and] prohibits any kind of education requirements for voter eligibility. Analysis of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, art. VII, § 2, p.124 (6 Dec. 1976).

Voting is a right and one of the most important civic responsibilities of United States citizens. Sign up and vote !

If you are a person with a disability and are having difficulty or being denied the right to register and vote, contact NMPASI at (670) 235-7273/4 or www.nmpasi.org

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