• The San Juan Daily Star

Drafting of new electoral code moves on a slow track in Legislature

House Deputy Speaker José Varela says efforts in the Legislature to create a new electoral code are moving along at a snail’s pace. (Photo by Johanna Sánchez)

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

House Deputy Speaker José Varela told the STAR on Monday that efforts in the island Legislature to create a new electoral code to address the stumbling blocks faced in past elections continue at a slow pace.

Varela said the issue requires priority as the articles from the Electoral Reform signed in June 2020 are coming into effect, such as the reduction in permanent registration boards, which are responsible for organizing and keeping watch over the island’s electoral affairs.

“There is urgency in working on the electoral code, but I am waiting for answers from the Senate,” Varela said, referring in particular to House Concur-rent Resolution 28, a piece of legislation authored by House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez that seeks to create a new electoral law based on “consensus” and “transparency” to “reestablish the credibility” of the island’s voting system.

“I don’t know if the Senate will pick up the concur-rent resolution or if they’ll work on a new resolution because I was also asked to hand over a draft with every change made,” he said. “I hope that a decision comes soon, whichever and whatever that is.”

According to El Vocero, the bill was amended on the House floor so that the Special Joint Commission would present a new electoral reform on or before Dec. 31, 2022.

Initially, the bill established that the process had to be completed in or before 2023.

The approved amendment had the support of the Popular Democratic Party, along with the endorsement of the Citizens’ Victory Movement, the Puerto Rican Independence Party and the Dignity Project.

Only the New Progressive Party delegation voted against the resolution.

When the STAR requested a response from the Senate, spokesperson Ángel Raúl Matos said the upper chamber had “requested input and proposals from the different parties to begin the dialogue.”

“Right now, specifically, there is nothing,” Matos told the newspaper.

That acknowledgement comes at a time when Varela was also urging Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to file his new appointments to lead the State Elections Commission as Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer’s tenure came to an end in July.

“The new law, which is nefarious, establishes that, when it comes to selecting the new person to chair the commission, the governor sends his appointments, who are judges, to the electoral commissioners in order to reach an agreement,” Varela said. “As there was no agreement among the commissioners, the ap-pointments return to the governor and those, among other nominations, should get sent to the Legislature, at which point we have 15 days to confirm or repeal.”

However, he said that although the process is already running, the assembly has not received the nominations and has 12 days left to complete the procedure.

“If we can’t fulfill that, then the Puerto Rico Supreme Court would be the one to choose the next person to preside over the State Elections Commission,” the House Electoral Affairs Committee chairman said. “This is a political post; we should be the one responsible for making that choice.”

“That is why the electoral law is so bad -- it gives the high court power to choose who will lead this entity,” Varela added.

At press time, La Fortaleza Press Secretary Sheila Angleró had confirmed that the governor’s office would file the nominations today.

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