PDP president: Supreme Court’s decision ‘prolongs uncertainty’ on results of primary elections
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Aníbal José Torres said Wednesday that the Puerto Rico Supreme Court’s decision to halt all primary election processes involving any sort of scrutiny would “prolong the uncertainty” during the electoral event that is expected to conclude this Sunday after the Supreme Court’s decision.
Moments before PDP officials were expected to start counting votes as a resolution from State Elections Commission (SEC) Chairman Juan Dávila Rivera and PDP Electoral Commissioner Lind O. Merle Feliciano determined to have voting ballots available to count for a preliminary outcome to be used for internal purposes, the party received a phone call from the Supreme Court’s deputy secretary to stop or refrain from any vote count. For Torres and the PDP governing board, the result of the vote counting was to have nothing to do with the work of the SEC, but rather was meant to provide certainty to PDP hopefuls.
“The consequence [of the Supreme Court’s decision] is the continued leaking of results that are uncertain if they were emitted by a ballot reading machine,” Torres said. “The effect is that we are still speculating if … candidates had these numbers, if those numbers are true, if they were emitted by the machine or not -- it would prolong the uncertainty.”
The PDP president went on to say that alleged preliminary outcomes have been leaked and used to create false impressions among citizens and supporters. For this purpose, the political party thought that the “least harmful choice” to make was to conduct a voting tally and project results to the gubernatorial hopefuls’ representatives as the situation could create a negative environment not only within the party but also with regard to the electoral process.
“No one wanted to see outcomes being leaked,” Torres said. “What happens is that there are some colleagues who, in putting their individual thinking over collective thought, which is what should prevail during these processes, begin to provide results to give an impression that a given candidate is a step ahead and that candidate is going to win the event. [But] that’s not true -- there’s no official result. That depends on the procedures done by the SEC.”
“The PDP governing board said this [leaking unofficial outcomes] produces a bad environment and can, in one way or another, diminish certainty and trust in the [electoral] process, so the board determined that, in order to stop the leaks, let’s provide the preliminary results in a more official fashion. That’s what we voted for,” he said.
Merle Feliciano, when a member of the press asked what the PDP has left to complete before the second session of the primary elections, said that he submitted a form to the SEC chairman that requested motor vehicles for ballot distribution and essential equipment for polling stations. However, they were still waiting for ballots, he said.
“The [SEC] chairman told me that there were some funds identified, and I’m waiting for his response in order to know that everything is in order,” Merle Feliciano said. “Now, the SEC secretary -- this is incredible -- reported that today at 4 p.m. we will be receiving 591,000 ballots when they were supposed to be available last Friday and the elections were on Sunday, and you deliver the ballots on Wednesday. This is disrespectful to the country and the PDP.”
However, Torres said those ballots were to be used as a safeguard if voter turnout is higher than expected at polling stations or if they need more ballots.
He added that all ballot briefcases were ready for distribution.
“The PDP has every, every, every station briefcase ready for every precinct that still has not voted, so in terms of the decision by the PDP and its electoral commissioner to run primary elections, I have to tell you [that the answer] is yes, but with the following explanation: what’s out of our hands, I can’t respond to that,” Torres said. “The electoral commissioner said there have been some contract requests [made] for distribution trucks. That’s not under the PDP’s or its electoral commissioner’s control. I can have all the briefcases ready [for distribution], but if the trucks are not ready, the situation that happened last week will happen again.”
Meanwhile, when it was brought up that although the PDP president has spoken negatively about the SEC and the New Progressive Party (NPP) during the primary elections, he went along with NPP President Thomas Rivera Schatz in suspending last Sunday’s primary voting as polling stations remained closed due to ballot shortages, Torres said the claim was “completely false.”
“I did not ally with the NPP president,” he said. “The NPP president and PDP president represent two institutions involved in running primary elections. If I tell the country that I would have wanted a consensus to approve a new Electoral Code, the consensus would have occurred by just talking.”
“What did I have to do on Sunday? Wait for the SEC chairman and NPP president to meet up and wait at the stand to see which choices they made?” Torres asked rhetorically. “No! That would be a disservice to the PDP.”
The Supreme Court associate justices also determined on Wednesday to consolidate all electoral cases filed by NPP gubernatorial hopefuls Pedro Pierluisi and Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, PDP gubernatorial hopefuls Eduardo Bhatia Gautier and Carlos Delgado Altieri, and citizen Damaris Quiñones Torres, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.