Where Are The Results Of The Constitutional Referendum?

Where Are The Results Of The Constitutional Referendum?

The Results Of The Constitutional Referendum

As we head into mid-August a lot of folks might be asking themselves, “Hey, we dutifully voted on July 4, so what’s taking so long for the results of the referendum on the nine proposed Constitutional amendments?”  A very good question with a bit of a lengthy answer!

Amending the FSM Constitution is a lengthy process with many steps, some of which are obvious and some of which are not.  Holding a Constitutional Convention, educating the public about proposed amendments, and voting in the nationwide referendum—these are obvious steps.  Unfortunately, we are now at the point of the process where less obvious steps come into play.  By statute any candidate in a national election has the right to file a petition to challenge the election results.  When a petition has been timely filed after Election Day the merits of that challenge are first considered by the National Election Director, who must issue his decision to reject the petition or to grant either a recount or a revote within 14 days of receiving the petition.  If a party is not satisfied with that decision, he can then appeal that decision to the Appellate Division of the FSM Supreme Court.

And that’s where we now find ourselves with respect to the July 4 election during which the nine constitutional amendments were voted upon.  A party (or parties) dissatisfied with the election results has appealed the decision of the National Election Director with respect to his petition.  The case has been set for oral arguments on August 24 before the Appellate Division of the FSM Supreme Court.  After hearing oral arguments and reviewing the written briefs of the parties the Court can do one of several things:  the Court can uphold the decision of the National Election Director or order a recount or revote with any revote taking place no later than 30 days after an order by the Court.  So at the very least we all have to wait until the Court resolves this outstanding election challenge.  (Although this delay might feel frustrating, the ability to challenge election results and resolve those disputes in a timely, transparent, and respectful manner is actually a sign of the health of the FSM’s democratic process.  Good things are worth the wait!)

So then will we know the results of the constitutional referendum?  Not quite yet as there are still more steps in the process!  Even if the election challenge is resolved without a recount or revote, at this point a little known statute called the Constitutional Amendment Procedure Act comes into play.  This Act sets out more specific steps that must be followed to amend the Constitution.  The Act governs everything from how the ballots are formatted to the procedural steps that must occur before any amendments are finally and officially proclaimed as ratified.

The Act essentially lays out three major procedural steps.  First, “as soon as practicable after the election” the results of the votes cast on each amendment must be certified and transmitted to the President and the Congress. Second, the President must then make a determination of whether or not each amendment has been approved or disapproved.  Although the President alone makes this determination, the Act empowers Congress to override the determination of the President “by not less than a three-fourths vote of all the State delegations, with each State delegation casting one vote.”  Third, the President must then issue “a proclamation announcing the ratification of the amendment and that its effectiveness is retroactive to the date of the election.”  This proclamation must be issued no later than 15 days after the President determines that a constitutional amendment has been ratified. Then and only then will the Constitution be finally amended as a result of the July 4 national election!

After the election challenges are resolved, the vote totals are fully certified, and any amendments are proclaimed as ratified by the President, we will follow up with another article discussing what happens next with one or more of the constitutional amendments that are eventually ratified.

Stay tuned…