PDP House delegation demands special session to investigate primary elections failure
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives sent a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez and the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority calling for a special assembly in order to investigate Sunday’s failed primary elections and determine if the 2020 Electoral Code had anything to do with what went wrong.
Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, the PDP spokesman in the House, said Méndez, as speaker, holds the power to grant Section 18.3(b) of Resolution 1-2017 in the House rulebook to swiftly investigate malfunctions that have violated citizens’ voting rights. Hernández said it is a duty of the Legislative Assembly to determine accountability.
“What happened last Sunday with the primary [elections] was a national disaster that made thousands of voters wait until late evening to cast their votes and made others go back home without exercising their right to vote,” Hernández said. “It’s important to investigate the bidding process that took place to award a contract for ballot printing, its total cost and if the selected printing company was capable of complying with the contract signed by the State Elections Committee (SEC) for the management of the ballot in order to establish responsibility on the part of those who failed the country.”
PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos told the Star meanwhile that the request made in H.R. 1800, which demands that the House Government Committee conduct an “exhaustive investigation” related to the failure that occurred Sunday, if the Legislative Assembly approves it, is to determine the responsibility of SEC Chairman Juan Dávila Rivera, PDP and NPP electoral commissioners Lind Merle Feliciano and María Dolores “Lolín” Santiago, respectively, and prívate providers in the botched Sunday primary.
Vega Ramos also demanded that Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced extend and amend the special session in order to repeal the current Electoral Code.
“We again call on the governor to extend and amend the Special Session to repeal the ‘Electoral Fraud Code’ from [Senate President] Thomas Rivera Schatz as it is one of the main causes of the primary elections’ failure,” Vega Ramos said. “That code, in more than 30 days before the primaries, put all the procedural management in the hands of the [SEC] chairman and dismissed the commission’s vice presidents, one of them being Nicolas Gautier, who had the most experience when it came to electoral processes.”
The minority lawmaker said the Electoral Code gave power to the SEC chairman to supervise contracting, payments and ballot distribution. Meanwhile, the House resolution also would refer the findings of the proposed investigation to both commonwealth and federal authorities.
“If there was a mistake, that negligence would be criminal negligence,” Vega Ramos said. “That’s why another claim is for the [island] Department of Justice, the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office to investigate if there was any negligence on the part of the SEC chairman and other officials in order to see if there is any cause.”
Vega Ramos added that the House must not fail to act on its duty to supervise and provide oversight on an urgent matter, which is to complete the primary elections and ensure the proper execution of general elections on Nov. 3.