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High court validates SEC chairman, alternate in their posts


The Puerto Rico Supreme Court determined in a 6-2 vote that the chairman and alternate chairwoman of the State Elections Commission are validly exercising their functions.

By The Star Staff


In a 6-2 vote, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court determined on Monday that the chairman and alternate chairwoman of the State Elections Commission (SEC) are validly exercising their functions, in response to a lawsuit filed by the electoral commissioner of the Dignity Project, Nelson Rosario Rodriguez.


“We issue the requested Certification resource and conclude that Francisco Rosado Colomer and Jessika Padilla Rivera continue to legally carry out their respective positions as chairman and alternate chairwoman of the State Elections Commission by operation of the continuity clause provided by law even after the starting and ending of the legislative session in question, until their successors are appointed and take office,” reads the high court’s ruling.


Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez and Associate Justice Ángel Colón Pérez dissented.


On Nov. 23, Rosario Rodríguez filed a petition for a declaratory judgment before the San Juan Superior Court. In the petitioner’s opinion, after the expiration of the term of Rosado Colomer and Padilla Rivera at the conclusion of the ordinary session and after the expiration of the appointments in question, the positions of SEC chairman and alternate chair remained vacant.


Rosario Rodríguez said “the actions of the defendants as of November 16, 2021, because they are carried out after the constitutionally permitted term has expired, cease to be official, their determinations are void and harm the entire management of the State Elections Commission.”


“Thus, after this date, the State Elections Commission could not hold its meetings chaired by a chairman and the agency was headless in its direction.”


Rosado Colomer and Padilla Rivera remained in their positions after no agreement was reached to name their substitutes. Associate justices warned that it is not an exercise of sound public policy to appoint both positions in legislative recess.


“In particular, the continuity clause contained in the positions of the chairmanship and alternate chairmanship of the State Elections Commission provides stability to the administration of the electoral system,” the ruling states. “The Political Powers have the key to close that door through the wise exercise of their respective powers. Given the uncertainty of whether this bilateral exercise will occur, we cannot validate that one of the powers, unilaterally, repeatedly appoints officials to the chairmanship of the State Elections Commission in recess. Much less should two vacancies [at the top] of the State Elections Commission be unilaterally decreed. The electoral system of Puerto Rico and its administration should not be held hostage to negotiations between the Political Powers. In view of this, the continuity clause provides protection to prevent either of the two entities of the Political Powers from seeking to use strategies that dislocate the balance of powers outlined in our legal system.”

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