• The Star Staff

PDP remains doubtful if primary elections will run properly as SEC struggles to respond

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

With the State Elections Commission (SEC) unaware of how many voters were left out of the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) early primary election vote amid a series of inconveniences, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández said on Sunday that his party is doubtful about its primary elections going off smoothly as communication with SEC President Juan Ernesto Dávila has been poor.

When a member of the press asked if there were any concerns about the PDP’s early vote confronting similar difficulties as the NPP’s early vote on Saturday, Hernández said PDP municipal presidents have questioned what mechanisms the SEC has to guarantee that people who voted in the NPP primaries won’t vote in theirs. The party still has doubts given that the SEC has yet to respond to their concerns.

“Yesterday, they [SEC] determined that early voting will continue on the day of the main event, which means that their lists won’t include an exclusion list. In our case, the PDP will have its early vote on [Saturday] August 8. What will the SEC do to guarantee that the updated lists will be available in every voting center the next day? We have great doubts on this,” Hernández said. “We will be submitting a letter early on Monday [today] asking for the commission to do its job. We hope they answer.”

However, the PDP spokesman in the House of Representatives said Dávila should not wait for the PDP, but rather should present alternatives to prevent mixed voting during Saturday’s primary elections. Meanwhile, he called out the SEC president as he still has not responded to the San Juan Superior Court’s demands from various organizations, including the Citizen’s Victory Movement and the Puerto Rico Democratic Party, and has not been readily available to clarify how the SEC will safeguard citizens’ right to vote.

“He should present to the people what the alternatives are for ensuring that the lists, at the moment people are voting, will exclude voters who already voted in [Saturday’s NPP] primary. … Let’s not forget that the only way to control voters is through inking. If that voter was inked yesterday, they could arrive to vote as they appear on the lists again,” he said. “There could be double votes in the NPP or a mixed vote from someone who voted in the NPP’s primary election and then goes to the PDP to, probably, vote against the strongest candidate that the opposition has.”

SEC president insists early NPP vote was fair

Amidst backlogs while handing out ballots, voting centers opening late, candidates transporting ballots to voting centers and damaged equipment in the NPP’s early vote, Dávila said that everything will be done to assure fair elections by Aug. 9.

“Today the SEC has had setbacks in the administration of the early vote of the NPP local primary,” Dávila said. “However, we will guarantee that all voters can exercise their right to vote. The NPP Special Primary Commission approved by resolution that the voters who requested the early vote and [could] not exercise it [Saturday], will be able to vote on Aug. 9, 2020 through a preferential voting system.”

According to a written statement, the determination was consulted and approved by the electoral representatives of the campaigns of the NPP gubernatorial primary candidates. Likewise, Dávila said that despite the adversities the SEC is dealing with, such as the lack of a budget, the COVID-19 pandemic, earthquakes and storm events, it will make sure that citizens exercise their right to vote.

“We will work tirelessly so that both the NPP and PDP local primaries, and the general election and the [statehood ‘yes or no’] plebiscite can be carried out correctly and the will of the people expressed in the ballot boxes is respected,” he said.

Since the process began, complaints have been received over a lack of materials or incomplete or late materials, and incomplete voter lists, among other issues.

At press time, the Electoral Commissioner of the NPP, María D. Santiago, announced that the second day of the early voting process was carried out without major setbacks.The votes of the people registered in the lists of Early Voting at Home were collected. These are voters with mobility impairments or bedridden. According to the NPP Primary Commission, there were more than 3,000 requests to vote at home. On Friday, August 7, 2020, the early vote of inmates will be administered in the different penal institutions of the Island.