• The Star Staff

PDP legislator, House hopefuls call on SEC chairman to end electronic voting firm’s ballot monopoly

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. José “Conny” Varela demanded on Wednesday that State Elections Commission (SEC) Chairman Juan Dávila Rivera terminate what Varela considers a monopoly on the part of Canadian electronic voting company Dominion Voting System Corp., as it is the only company responsible for certifying ballot printing companies.

Varela, joined by House at-large hopefuls Enid Monge Pastrana, Ángel Rodríguez Otero, Pedro Irene Maymí and Carlos Javier Sánchez, said the SEC hired the company to establish an electronic voting system and set requirements for certifying printing companies for ballot print runs, but it only certified Printech, a company that has been under fire as they were unable to print enough ballots for the recent primary elections, causing polling delays.

“Beyond investigating the failure of the primary elections’ operation last Sunday, we also demand that Juan Ernesto Dávila [Rivera], the SEC chairman, account for the kind of contract that [the SEC] holds with Dominion Voting System Corp. and their [Dominion’s] role in certifying companies to print ballots,” Varela said. “If we determine that the situation is unsustainable, it creates suspicion that, aside from a $38 million contract with Dominion, the commission also holds a contract with this company for ‘maintenance and equipment repair’ for $997,017.”

The PDP legislator said the contract (No. 2020-000080) is not available on the Comptroller’s Office website, although the contract requirements set by the SEC chairman are available on the site.

Meanwhile, Monge Pastrana said Dominion limited the opportunity for other printing companies to participate in an SEC bidding process for ballot printing.

“As alleged, as Dominion arrived, the company established negotiations as they only have one certified supplier to buy material for the ballots, apart from the support and maintenance [service] to the SEC,” Monge Pastrana said. “There are no reasons to maintain a monopoly for ballot printing when there are alternatives in Puerto Rico to do this kind of work economically, swiftly and safely for Puerto Rican voters.”

Rodríguez Otero said a contract that monopolizes the printing of ballots is “counterproductive to the best interests of our country” and raises concerns about the short amount of time for having electoral items ready.

Irene Maymí said the SEC chairman has a lot to answer for.

“The people deserve to know why only one company was chosen and the total of expenses used for the primary elections, more so when $2.5 million was approved and the Financial Oversight and Management Board approved [another] $1.27 million,” Irene Maymí said.

Sánchez urged immediate action to safeguard November’s general elections. The House hopeful said the action should consist of eliminating any impractical requirements imposed on companies to print ballots, expanding the roster of contracted printing companies and establishing a “realistic” production schedule.