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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House panel chair insists top SEC official must appear at hearing

By The Star Staff

Rep. José “Conny” Varela Fernández, who chairs the Committee for the Study and Evaluation of Constitutional Law and Electoral Matters in the island House of Representatives, insisted Tuesday that the appearance of State Elections Commission (SEC) Alternate Chairwoman Jessika Padilla Rivera at a public hearing on Thursday is very much needed.

Varela said that following the worrying number of incidents related to the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and New Progressive Party (NPP) primaries held on Sunday, June 2, her attendance is prudent and necessary.

“When I summoned Judge Padilla last March, as well as the electoral commissioners, I asked them to inform us about all the procedures carried out and pending, as well as the resources available in the SEC to fulfill the commitment of the primaries,” Varela said. “Obviously, the problems we anticipated continue, and we are not satisfied with the result. For this reason, we are once again requesting the appearance of Judge Padilla to account for the incidents during the [June 2 primary] event.”

The hearing is scheduled for this Thursday at 10 a.m.

During the recent primaries, several incidents were reported that hindered the processing of votes. Among them were technical problems with the voting machines at the polling stations, instability in the SEC electronic system for transmitting results, a shortage of polling station officials, and dozens of cases of errors and inconsistencies in the minutes printed by the counting machines, along with the aggravating factor of electrical system failures throughout the island.

“What happened on June 2 unfortunately brought back the memory of the eventful handling of the primaries and the 2020 elections,” he said. “We cannot allow citizen confidence in the exercise of the vote to continue to be undermined in the leadup to the general elections,”.

The vice speaker of the House insisted on the urgent need to clarify the budget situation of the SEC.

“On the one hand, we heard the alternate chairwoman complain about the lack of a budget, and we heard Governor Pierluisi instructing the Office of Budget and Management to address the SEC’s need for funds,” Varela said. “On the other hand, the Fiscal Oversight Board [sic] continues to refuse to provide more resources, while indicating that “money is no excuse for an electoral event.”

“We know that electoral processes require resources to keep the equipment up to date and have sufficient personnel to manage them successfully,” the legislator said. “Although it is necessary to manage the budget responsibly, we cannot continue to impose such petty budget restrictions that prevent us from carrying out a reliable and transparent electoral process.”

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