Polls on election day opened at 7 a.m. on November 7, 2009. Three of the four gubernatorial candidates cast their ballots in the morning at Garapan Elementary School in Garapan, Saipan. Incumbent Governor Benigno Fitial and First Lady Josie Fitial voted at 7:10 a.m., Ramon "Kumoi" Deleon Guerrero arrived at the school at 7:20 a.m. and independent candidate Juan Pan Guerrero voted after 9 a.m. Republican candidate Heinz Hofschneider also voted at Garapan Elementary School at 6 p.m. later that day. An estimated 84% of registered voters participated in the election.
In the November 7 general election, Republican challenger Heinz Hofschneider received 4,900 votes and incumbent Governor Benigno Fitial received 4,892 votes, therefore both advanced to the runoff election slated for November 23, 2009. A total of 13,784 votes were cast in the first round. Hofschneider led Fitial by just eight votes, the closest gubernatorial election in the history of the Northern Mariana Islands. Independent candidates Juan Pan Guerrero and Ramon "Kumoi" Deleon Guerrero came in 3rd and 4th place respectively and, therefore, did not qualify for the second runoff election.
Under a 2009 law signed by Governor Benigno Fitial, a runoff election is required within fourteen days of the if no candidate obtained 50% of the popular vote plus 1. Since neither Fitial nor Hofschneider garnered more than 50% of the vote, a runoff date was set for November 23, 2009.
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