PDP seeks SEC chairman’s removal in fraud complaint over early voting

By John McPhaul

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner Nicolás Gautier Vega filed a complaint Thursday asking for the removal of State Elections Commission Chairman Ernesto Dávila Rivera, saying that Dávila Rivera was setting up potential electoral fraud by establishing two-way early voting by mail for the General Elections on Nov. 3.

“The decisions of the chairman of the State Elections Commission, Juan Ernesto Dávila Rivera, related to the Early Voting by mail is an invitation to commit fraud,” Gautier said in a written statement, adding that he anticipates problems in complying with the electoral calendar.

“The determination of the SEC chairman to adopt measures that promote electoral fraud in the Early Voting, together with the gross breach of his ministerial duty and the manifest partiality to the detriment of a political party, among other [reasons] validates our action in filing a complaint for the immediate removal of Rivera Dávila from his chairmanship,” Gautier said. “The chairman’s decisions undermine the transparency and proper functioning of the electoral processes. Dávila is a judge, and therefore he knows the law and knows that in his position decisions must be based on the best interest of the Commission and not on advancing political agendas.”

Gautier said that on Tuesday the party electoral commissioners met to discuss the Advance Vote form, which establishes that the early voting modality must be processed by mail. After several hours of discussion, the electoral commissioners agreed to accept the suggestions of the SEC chairman, which included sending ballots by mail to voters who requested them. A minimum number of days would be established for the voter to go to the Permanent Registration Board where they would identify themselves, sign the voting list and process their ballots through the counting machine. It was also agreed that the machine would remain in the Permanent Registration Board until the last day of early voting and then it would be taken to the administrative board for early voting.

“The commissioners of the four minority parties consented to the agreed recommendations. The [New Progressive Party] representative was the only one who voted against it,” Gautier said. “When we received the Certification of Disagreement we noted that the chairman did not accept his own recommendations and without any justification determined that the Vote by Mail would be used in both directions. This means that the voter receives and sends the ballots by mail. It is irresponsible on the part of the chairman to annul the agreements that have been made.”

Among the reasons the PDP opposes the voting by mail process are the lack of a regulation or manual that establishes the implementation of the vote by mail, and the lack of knowledge about the capacity of the general post offices to process hundreds of requests at once on the same day.

“Without a doubt, the lack of a regulation that guarantees a transparent and responsible procedure is an invitation to fraud,” Gautier said. “Our party is resolutely opposed to this determination and demands the immediate resignation of the chairman.”

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