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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Close PDP presidential election in limbo after ballot cases incident spurs recount

Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz and Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González

By The Star Staff

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) remained without an official president Monday after the party decided to go to a recount of votes amid allegations of numbers not adding up, irregular voting, and the refusal of the candidates to open cases carrying ballots.

On Sunday night, the PDP leadership decided to suspend the vote count and move to an official recount, given the difference of a handful of votes between Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz and Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González. A third candidate, Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado González, conceded defeat earlier in the day.

PDP Secretary General Luis Vega Ramos stated that it was not possible to certify an official winner on Sunday due to the refusal of candidates Ortiz González and Hernández Ortiz, through their representatives, to open nine ballot cases to corroborate the information in the records that were in the State Election Commission’s possession.

“When they were there, the representatives of the candidates decided not to authorize the opening of those briefcases,” Vega Ramos said in a radio interview Monday.

Ortiz González said he is aware that it was not proper procedure but that there needed to be more clarity on the numbers.

“We understood that there was a lot of confusion with the number system, and we understood that a counting process had to be carried out and, during the counting, those briefcases would be opened,” he said. “However, it did not seem right to us, amid the uncertainty and the comments, to open the briefcases.”

Fueling the controversy, New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Vanessa Santo Domingo gave her opinion on an alleged act posted on Villalba’s social networks.

“In these minutes, there are more ballots in the ballot box than what was originally delivered to the polling station in the briefcase,” Santo Domingo said. “In the supposed document, it is stated that 475 voters voted, but in the briefcase, there were 852 ballots. The reason for the discrepancy in the numbers is not explained.”

Hernández Ortiz’s campaign manager, Rep. Jesús Santa Rodríguez, told NotiUno: “The other two candidates either had their representatives there or were blind. Therefore, it seems to me an irresponsible complaint. I could question the same about Aguada or Arecibo.”

Aguada Mayor Christian Cortés Feliciano is the campaign manager for Ortiz González.

NPP Vice President Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez said meanwhile that the election of Hernández Ortiz as PDP president with fewer than 25,000 votes would put his permanence in a precarious situation.

“The numbers are the numbers; the new president of the PDP won his position with less than 24,202 votes, if he finally prevails, of course,” Méndez said in a written statement. “That is a tiny amount and demonstrates a historical weakness. In 2020, Carlos ‘Charlie’ Delgado accumulated 563,280 votes in the primary for the governorship ([and party] presidency], infinitely more than what the current president got. Even [former San Juan mayor] Carmen Yulín Cruz, who came in third, obtained more votes (28,959) than Hernández.”

“This will be a questioned presidency with minimal support,” added the NPP minority leader in the lower chamber. “By contrast, the six congressional delegate candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 won far more votes than Hernández reached today (Sunday) and only one, Ricardo Rosselló, obtained more votes than the three combined through direct nomination. We are seeing the end of a political party.”

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