Espacios Abiertos launches web platform with data on all candidates
By The Star Staff
Because of the “historical absence of information and the general ignorance by voters about the universe of candidates for elective positions,” the organization Espacios Abiertos (Open Spaces) presented on Wednesday the platform “QuienMeRepresentaPR.com, 2020 Elections Edition” despite the struggle to overcome what it called the notorious lack of transparency prevalent in the State Elections Commission.
At an online news conference, Espacios Abiertos CEO Cecille Blondet Passalacqua spoke about the difficulties in obtaining photos and other information on candidates from the SEC, which blamed the delays in releasing information on the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The political participation of citizens goes hand in hand with the exercise of democracy. Furthermore, it is a human right recognized by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a general rule, Puerto Ricans and residents of the island actively participate in electoral events. However, while many involve themselves in the selection of their representatives and rulers every four years, few participate in the activities of formation and construction of government policies the rest of the time, “ Blondet Passalacqua said. “Open Spaces was created with the mission of developing the civic capacities of Puerto Ricans so that they participate actively and more effectively in the political, social, economic, and institutional spheres. The QuienmeReprsentaPR.com platform in its original version, and now in the elections version, seeks to bring citizens closer to their elected representatives and facilitate their participation and frequency of involvement in decisions and events that affect us as a group on a daily basis.”
Running in primaries and general elections, there are almost 700 candidates vying for 158 seats, including governor, resident commissioner, mayors, district senators, at-large senators, district House seats and at-large House seats. (That is without counting the 888 seats that represent the municipal assemblies of the 78 municipalities that vary in size from 4 to 14 municipal legislators). The roster of applicants almost quadruples the available seats.
Blondet Passalacqua said that starting Wednesday and during the election period (from July to November), citizens will be able to get to know the candidates for elective positions at the municipal and state level through the QuienMeRepresentaPR.com portal. Geolocation technology allows a user to enter an address or postal code to identify, according to their place of residence, the district where they must vote. Then, from their mobile phone, tablet or computer, the user will have in one place information about all the candidates that will appear on the ballots of their district, under the insignia of the five parties certified by the SEC or by independent candidacies. The detailed information on the candidates provided by the tool is not available through the SEC.
Open Spaces’ collaborative alliances with other non-profit organizations will provide new layers of information to QuienMeRepresentaPRPR.com and will facilitate access and navigation for skilled voters who are interested in exercising their right to political participation,” Blondet Passalacqua said. Through direct links on the website, a user can access the educational platforms and campaigns that have been developed for the 2020 elections: ParaVotar.org (offers information on the registration process, voter registration, etc.), Project 85 (promotes greater participation of women in elective and executive positions within the government, which tends to better reflect the representation of women), Voto con Conciencia (an educational campaign of the Puerto Rico Psychological Association) and TuVotoNoSeDeja (an educational campaign of ACLU Puerto Rico and those who currently work with the evaluation of the legislative history of the incumbents).
“As if the COVID threat was not a sufficient challenge, the primary process can be intimidating due to the wide range of applicants,” Blondet Passalacqua said. “In August, voters will have between four and six different ballots from which to select a total of 14 to 17 candidates. On the other hand, the primaries in principle offer the opportunity to the voters — armed with information — to select the best candidates for the November ballot. Those who best represent the majority.”
The QuienMeRepresentaPR.com project was subsidized with a donation from the Puerto Rico Philanthropy Fund, also known as the Foundations Network, where various foundations and philanthropic organizations from Puerto Rico and the mainland United States participate and contribute.