Civil coalition presses SEC for a ‘transparent electoral process’ amid general vote count irregulari
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
As a result of the irregularities that have come to light in the State Elections Commission’s (SEC) general vote count at Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Citizens for Electoral Transparency (CTE by its Spanish initials) and other collectives urged islanders on Monday to demand transparency and respect for their voting rights.
CTE spokesperson Mara Santori López said the collective is demanding that the SEC and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court enforce the Electoral Code to verify the legitimacy of every early vote cast from Unit 77, where mail-in, at-home and absentee votes from the general elections are located.
She also said both the organization and supporters have requested that the SEC make both the electoral process and the meetings with electoral commissioners public “as they authorized the American Civil Liberties Union during a broadcast.”
“If it cannot be verified and is irremediably contaminated, the cancellation of Unit 77 must be requested,” the CTE spokesperson said. “This is the only way to address the problem of irregularities, either to confirm or rule out suspected fraud.”
Regarding the irregularities, Santori López pointed out “more votes cast than authorized requests, ironed ballots that did not come out of early mail-in vote envelopes, tally imbalances and poor management of 184 ballot boxes, and the possible appearance of four more boxes.”
Likewise, she called out the New Progressive Party (NPP) for “wanting us to ignore the serious irregularities in the early votes cast in Unit 77, on which depends the final certification of various candidates, not only in San Juan, but other towns on the island.”
“The party that was only favored by 32 percent of the citizens’ votes seeks to hinder the scrutiny process to be carried out as the electoral law itself shows,” she said. “The NPP insists on the old trick of accusing the accuser and hinders the transparency that the process should have and points [a finger] at the Citizens Victory Movement for the hindrance.”
Meanwhile, she told members of the press that the matter is “somewhat larger than the aspirations of all the candidates that depend on the general vote count, such as the mayoral candidates of San Juan, Guánica and Aguadilla, as well as the candidates for the Legislature.”
Meanwhile, Pentecostal minister Julio Álvarez said he came not as a religious figure, but more as a citizen to urge SEC Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer to “apologize to Puerto Ricans with all due respect.”
“I represent anyone, Christian or not, who believes that the people deserve a clean electoral process,’’ Álvarez said. “Those who were in long lines for hours under the sun, exposing themselves to a virus infection, do not deserve that more than 30 days after the elections, ballot boxes keep appearing. That’s unacceptable and disappointing.”
Álvarez called on the SEC to count every vote, yet to make sure that every vote was legally cast. He added that “honesty should be a guiding principle of morality,” referring to the Nov. 3 general elections as “an untrustworthy process.”
“Everyone has been aware to some measure that this event has been filled with irregularities and lacks legitimacy,” he said.
Boricua Artists Meeting spokesperson Raquel González meanwhile expressed her concern “that democracy in Puerto Rico is being hijacked” as the recent Electoral Code was passed without general consensus and can lead to the violation of citizens’ right to privacy as “political parties go inside their houses to manage votes.”
“This brings our entire electoral system into question,” González said. “If our electoral system is brought into question and we don’t have a democratic and objective instance where we can all agree that a majority of the people are willing and have expressed [their will] in an equal manner whereby everyone has access to their rights, we’re bringing about civil violence, and that’s something we must be aware of.”