Citizens waiting in SEC voter registration line ‘want things to be different’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
“We are tired of the same things every year and voting for the same people who have proven, year after year, that things won’t change, that things will stay the same.”
That is what 25-year-old Ashley Torres told the Star at 9:52 a.m. on Monday while waiting in line with her 25-year-old boyfriend Jan Carlos García and hundreds of other citizens at the State Elections Commission (SEC) on the last day to register to vote in the 2020 general elections.
Torres said she abstained from participating for the first time back in 2016 as no candidates convinced her; however, as she wishes for a “definite change in the government and to have the chance to vote for new candidates with new proposals,” Torres seeks a change from the bipartisanship brought by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Progressive Party (NPP) with her vote.
“Whether it is [Puerto Rican Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Juan] Dalmau or [Citizen Victory Movement gubernatorial candidate Alexandra] Lúgaro, we must take the opportunity to listen to their proposals,” Torres said. “We, as young people, must show that we care about our country’s future and want things to be different.”
García said this was also his first time registering at the SEC to vote and he felt like he was becoming part of society as he prepared to exercise his right to vote on Nov. 3.
“I am a part of the youth that thought their vote didn’t matter, and now their vote will have a great effect in the next elections,” García said. “We want a new leader with a chance to execute their ideas and stop trying to follow two parties like if they were donkeys trying to pull the same rope in opposite directions.”
Meanwhile, 41-year-old Delia J. Pérez was another citizen who took time Monday to join her friend and register to vote for the first time. When the Star asked if Pérez had any candidate or political party in mind, she said she was still asking questions. However, she insisted that candidates who end up in the government “must work well and do something for the people, as one keeps on voting and voting and we still see the same [outcome].”
Eighty-two-year-old Miriam Miller, meanwhile, was calmly waiting to complete her early vote request in the SEC senior line, which had folding chairs with cushions for both elders and citizens with physical disabilities. She told the Star that her intention for the next election is to vote Yes in the Statehood Yes/No referendum approved by the NPP majority in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced because she thought that “it was more important than voting for any other political party.”
“This referendum has a lot of weight for Puerto Rican citizens,” Miller said. “Possibly, things will stay the same, and what I mean by that is that the political parties that have been [in power] for many years will come out ahead, either of the two. But I don’t care about political parties, I care about the Yes/No referendum, and in my case, it’s a yes.”
People should ‘exercise their right to vote’
Ana Jiménez, who said she was “a lotta years old,” showed up at the SEC to get her electoral card back, as she had lost it, and consequently, requested early voting for the general elections ahead of the Sept. 19 deadline for doing so. Later revealing that she was 76 years old, Jiménez said that no matter the outcome, “people cannot criticize not argue if they don’t vote, because if they don’t vote, they don’t have the right to say a word.”
“Everyone should exercise their right to vote,” she said. “It’s a right, not a privilege.”
A vote ‘to eliminate the country’s corruption’
Later in the day, Enrique Collazo Calzada, a 62-year-old retiree, told the Star that he went to the SEC to reactivate his voter account because he has not exercised his right to vote since he was 18 years old.
“I am voting for any candidate who is committed to eliminating the country’s corruption, which are just a few,” Collazo Calzada said.
However, Miriam Marrero, who is a 65-year-old retiree and Collazo Calzada’s wife, said that since she didn’t vote in either the 2012 or 2016 elections, she was going to reactivate her account in order to take action “to stop NPP gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi and Senate at-large candidate Thomas Rivera Schatz from taking their seats.”
“I want to leave a better government to our offspring and grandchildren. Let’s see if Puerto Rico can change and someone, a good candidate, can work for real change. People are tired of so much corruption,” Marrero said. “I am not considering anyone from the traditional parties, I am looking for candidates with different proposals, a genuine interest in leading, and who actually love our country.”
Meanwhile, Janice Rodríguez, a 45-year-old mother of three children, said she came to the SEC because she also lost her electoral card, but later found out that she has not voted since 1996. The local economic peril and her children’s welfare brought her to the commission to exercise her right to vote.
“We have to come back and vote; one can think that this is not important when you have a job and children, but look at the disaster this has caused -- it really matters,” Rodríguez said. “Voting for the PDP or the NPP is truly a waste of time; they haven’t changed, they won’t change, they are still [running] with the same obsolete ideas. The new parties offer better alternatives and progressive ideas.”
Likewise, Terrance Vetter, who is 39 years old and Rodríguez’s husband, told the Star that since he did not think through his younger years about which direction the world was going, he said he would like “a last chance to have some kind of influence” as he was committed to voting for the first time.
“Things are stagnant. Change is necessary, and it’s imminent if we don’t decide to be a part of those changes, the decisions will be made for us, and that is unacceptable,” Vetter said. “I would say that I’m independent. I think the one that stands to give us the best edge on becoming independent and thinking independently, and moving in a direction that is non-partisan, but favors all of humanity, I think that [Alexandra] Lúgaro has some of the better ideas.”
At press time Monday, the SEC had registered more than 117,000 first-time voters through the weekend. Citizens who are 60 years or older, meanwhile, have until Sept. 24 to register or update their voter account for the 2020 general elections.