Local Democratic Party leaders contest primary results in court

By John McPhaul

Reps. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and José “Conny” Varela filed an injunction in San Juan Superior Court earlier this week against State Elections Commission (SEC) President Juan Ernesto Dávila Rivera and Popular Democratic Party and Democratic Party leader Charlie Rodríguez for allegedly illegally certifying the final results of the delegates in the Democratic presidential primaries held July 12 in Puerto Rico.

“Through this legal recourse, we have requested that a decree be issued prohibiting the defendant from proceeding to the appointment of delegates contained in the certification of July 20, 2020,” Hernández said. “Likewise, that it be ordered to order the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico to designate, proportionally, the delegates among the candidates who obtained support of at least 15 percent in each senatorial district, as required by the rules of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party (DNC).”

“We proceeded to alert both Charlie Rodríguez and the president of the State Elections Commission, Juan Ernesto Dávila Rivera, about the mistake they made in certifying delegates who do not comply with the recently approved Law 58-2020, known as ‘New Code Electoral de Puerto Rico de 2020,’ or with DNC regulations; however, the current president of the Democratic Party on the island limited himself to answering that he had no legal authority to change the certifications made by the SEC, so he would have to endorse the certification issued,” he added. “For this reason, we will be challenging him in court.”

The lawsuit states that the Presidential Primary Act of 1979 was repealed by the New Electoral Code of Puerto Rico of 2020 (Law 58-2020) on June 20, so that on the day of the primary it was already in force. It also claims the violation of articles 8.1 and 8.20.b of the same law, which regulates everything related to presidential primaries in Puerto Rico.

“As is clear from the recently approved Law 58-2020, its Article 8.12.a provides that: ‘[t] he selection of delegates, alternate delegates or both, shall be governed by the regulations and rules of the National Parties,’” Varela said. “On the other hand, Article 8.17a (2) does not authorize the SEC to intervene in the adjudication of delegates. It establishes that ‘The General Scrutiny completed, the Presidential Primary Commission will notify the president of the National State Party, the president of the National Party and all the Presidential Applicants who have appeared on the ballot paper of their respective primaries, the results in terms of absolute numbers of each candidacy.’”

Varela added that “on March 2, 2020, Mrs. Patrice Taylor of the DNC sent a memorandum reiterating that the methodology adopted for the DNC presidential primaries, called ‘ranked-choice voting,’ prevents a candidate who does not obtain at least 15 percent support in a given district from accumulating delegates in that district, a formula that has been widely commented on and discussed in political circles.”

“As we have already observed, only [former] Vice President Biden exceeded 15 percent support globally and at the level of the 8 Senate districts, [former New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg managed to reach 15 percent support in the Ponce District (16.05 percent) and in the Humacao District ( 22.01 percent),” Varela said. “Therefore, it is impossible to certify, as the Presidential Primary Commission tried to do, delegates who represent Bloomberg in the senatorial districts of San Juan, Bayamón, Arecibo, Mayagüez-Aguadilla, Guayama and Carolina.”

Meanwhile, Hernández said that “in the face of Charlie Rodríguez’s lack of compliance, Patrice Taylor once again informed him that rule 14 of the DNC provides that the selection of delegates must be in accordance with the expressed reflection of the presidential preference and if the level of preference in a district has passed 15 percent, a delegate is awarded proportionally.”

“If you do not meet the 15 percent threshold, no delegate would be assigned to you,” he said. “Therefore, she recommended that the results be corrected in order to avoid being contested.”

The plaintiffs noted that “[b]oth Law No. 58-2020 (New Electoral Code) and the last Presidential Primary Law required something that did not happen, which was that the assignment of delegates was carried out in accordance with the provisions of the National Regulations of the Party.”

“Given Charlie Rodríguez’s refusal to correct the results and comply with the rules of the National Democratic Party, we have filed a permanent injunction,” they said.

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