In the states, local elections are important but they are not typically a big deal. You generally see a few billboards and hear a few radio advertisements, all of which are fairly easy to ignore (even though you shouldn’t).
Elections are a whole different ball game on Guam. Here, you would have to lock yourself in your house for months to not know it’s time for elections. They take great pride in their right to vote and here’s how you can tell:
1. The signs are everywhere, literally.
Those puny little lawn signs we’re accustomed to in the US are put to shame on this island. On Guam, the candidates go all out (some may even say they go way overboard). In about a 5 mile radius of my house, I counted roughly 67 political candidate signs for positions ranging from senator to local village mayor. Of those 67 signs, they were only for about 15 different candidates. I’m not sure what the logic behind it is, but candidates will place 3 or 4 of the exact same sign in the exact same spot. They range from huge, fancy printed banners to spray-painted canvas tied to PVC pipes. One thing they all have in common is that they are rarely smaller than 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide. If you don’t know who to vote for, just take a stroll around your neighborhood and I bet you can find at least 5 different candidates to look up online.
2. Signs aren’t just in the ground, they’re in the beds of trucks.
Truck signs are VERY popular in Guam. No boring magnets or bumper stickers here – we have full on signs strapped down to the beds of pick-ups. We took a trip to the mall and while trying to find a parking spot, we were able to take a picture of 5 different truck signs. Usually these are family members trying to help support their loved one in their campaign. Sometimes candidates pay for people to drive their sign around and sometimes it’s just someone who really supports a particular candidate. With gas being over $3.50 a gallon, I can only hope their candidate is pitching in to help the driver out.
3. Unofficial parades are happening across the whole island.
Guam has one main road, Route 1 (aka Marine Drive); this road is a straight shot from one side of the island to the other. As election day gets closer, you will need to allot for an extra 30 minutes into all of your plans. Candidates and their supporters will line up in their cars all decked out in signs and drive about 20 miles an hour from the north tip to the southern tip along the main road. This is another method that I question, as all it does is make me curse the candidate as I fight to get around them with a screaming toddler in the back seat. Regardless, there must be a method to their madness because almost all of the candidates do it at one point or another. I don’t mean a handful of cars either – the shortest I’ve seen had about 15 cars and the longest included about 50 cars. They all throw on their hazards and cruise as they wave and honk at everyone who passes them.
4. Roadside rallies occur almost every weekend for the month leading up to the election.
These rallies are usually for the candidates running for higher officers like Governor, Congress, or Senate but there are so many people running for these positions that the rallies are on every main intersection. Sometimes there are two different ones right across the street from each other. The family members all fight the heat and rain to stand outside with their signs to show their allegiance. That is dedication. These shows of support still surprise me because in the states, I hardly ever knew the names of anyone running in any local elections. I saw the occasional Republican or Democrat rally during presidential elections but that was it. Props to the people of Guam for knowing the importance of elections no matter what size.
5. The candidates go out into the community for publicity.
The local community of Guam is tightly knit and family ties run deep here. Recently I participated in a scavenger hunt that required me to speak to a senator, congressmen, or someone running for those positions. I simply posted on a local Facebook page and within minutes I had about 6 candidates lined up willing to help. All from people saying “my uncle/brother/sister/grandparent is running, I will ask”. It seemed like everyone knew a family member who was running. I would have never had such willingness to help back on the mainland. Everyone is so worried about being serious and politically correct while the people of Guam are so much more relaxed. It was so refreshing. The candidate who helped us was so much fun to work with, and was not worried about seeming goofy or keeping up a certain reputation. Island attitude at it’s finest.
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Maybe it’s because the people of Guam couldn’t always vote or maybe it’s because they just really love gathering together… either way, election season is here and NASA can probably see all the signs from space.
What are elections like on your rock?