House passes amendments to Electoral Code
By The Star Staff
Although the island Senate has said it will not work with electoral reform, the House of Representatives passed amendments to the Electoral Code on Monday, the first day of the second legislative session of the year.
Approved with 34 votes in favor was House Bill 1822, which seeks to amend the Electoral Code of Puerto Rico as part of a bill promoted by House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez.
The bill comes also as the majority Popular Democratic Party (PDP) said it was up to the party and not the Legislature to negotiate amendments to the Electoral Code.
Among the main changes in the bill are to promote transparency, foster consensus, provide more access to the elderly and guarantee an electoral balance.
Other amendments in the bill include providing greater clarity to avoid judicial controversies, guaranteeing staff during the scrutiny process and restoring voting hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
One of the amendments notes that “if the voter does not receive the ballots to exercise his absentee vote, prior to the date of the event, he will have the right to vote in the appropriate electoral unit on the day of the event.”
“Said ballots will be kept in a separate envelope, duly identified with the voter’s name and electoral number, so that they are counted once the deadline for receipt of ballots by mail has expired,” the amendment reads.
The bill points out that in the event that the voter had indeed voted by mail, having received it, and in addition, he or she has voted in the electoral unit, both ballots will be declared null because it is a double vote, “and the voter will be subject to the procedures established for violation of the Electoral Code.”
In addition, the period for the presentation of endorsement petitions for primary candidates and independent candidates for elective public offices will begin on Dec. 1 of the year prior to the general election and will end at noon on Feb. 15 of the year of the election. When the date coincides with a holiday or non-business day for the island government, it will be extended to the next business day.
“Today we advanced an extremely important measure to maintain the hope of improving our rule of law ahead of the next elections,” Hernández Montañez said. “We cannot risk the democratic victory of the Puerto Rican people.”