What is going on in Puerto Rico? That seems to be a lingering question around the island lately. Well, yesterday was yet another summer day caught in a whirlwind of eyebrow-raising actions.
People were expected to go out and participate in regular primary voting procedures. Nothing could be further from reality. Though so many things transpired in the day, there is one clear fact: It was a catastrophe.
Puerto Rico was forced to halt primary voting due to a lack of ballots. This is the first time in modern history that such a thing occurs. The president of Puerto Rico’s elections commission (Comisión Estatal de Elecciones de Puerto Rico or CEE), Juan Ernesto Dávila, is now being asked to resign by many government and public officials, including Governor Wanda Vázquez.
Ten million ballots were supposed to be prepared by Printech in Cayey, the company in charge of printing the ballots and be ready by Saturday. The trucks were to be en route to their respective towns with the appropriate briefcases containing the ballots by 5 A.M. on Sunday.
In fact, the night before, Dávila, had reassured Puerto Ricans that everything was running as it should. The commissioners of the traditional parties, New Progressive Party and Popular Democratic Party, who were overseeing the process didn’t mention anything that would be alarming either, so people were calm and ready to vote.
However, once the sun rose on Sunday and people started going to their designated precincts, many of them were turned away. Some were told to return at a later hour, but that was not feasible for everyone. It is important to remember that people made a conscious choice to expose themselves to COVID-19 to practice their right to vote. It is also noteworthy that many people who went out to vote were older; others complained of the discomfort to have to wait outside in the blazing heat and the fact that they were risking their health.
Regional disparities further accentuated the voting crisis. For example, Las Marías and Mayagüez couldn’t start the voting polls until 2 P.M. as opposed to 8 A.M., which was the time it should’ve started initially..
As would be expected, there are many speculations revolving around the setback in the primaries this year. The reality is that no one knows as of yet.
San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulín, was able to provide BELatina News with her thoughts regarding yesterday’s confusing event.
“This jeopardizes the very essence of the little democracy that exists in the colony,” Yulín told BELatina News. “But this is our doing.”
The preliminary decision to upend yesterday’s voting took place after a press conference between the presidents of the traditional political parties, Thomas Rivera Schatz of the New Progressive Party and Aníbal José Torres of the Popular Democratic Party. They expressed their desire to suspend voting and to postpone it for an alternate day.
Towns throughout the island, such as Yauco, closed their precincts after they realized how long everything was taking, even before any decision had been made. They didn’t think it was fair to the process or the people.
The CEE later indicated a poll halt was the best course of action and moved forward with it.
This decision was met with harsh criticism, mainly because Schatz and Torres had no authority to suggest this without first consulting the political candidates. They didn’t consult Carmen Yulin or Charlie Delgado. Pedro Pierluisi had also spoken against yesterday’s suspension of votes.
Aside from that, this decision also violates the law. According to Puerto Rico’s constitution, primary voting must occur on the 9th of August, not any other day. There were no grounds to recommend this as yesterday’s solution. As a direct result, it is still uncertain whether or not votes will be counted before next week.
What will happen next is still unforeseeable.
Will the Supreme Court accept this change? What will happen to Puerto Rico’s Constitution after this? This is uncharted territory, and everyone is scrambling to see how to come up with a solution that works for the island.
Putting a stop to the voting process affects the electoral uniformity of Puerto Rico. It compromises the trust of the voters on the island. It blurs the credibility of Puerto Rico in front of the United States. There’s so much to unpack, and this is just the beginning.
This is a developing story.