SEC begins counting ballots from unopened containers as disorganization, uncertainty persist
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Electoral officers on Wednesday began counting early vote ballots from the unopened containers that the State Elections Commission (SEC) found Monday in vaults at Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
Around 60 tables were set up on the main floor where electoral officers from each political party were installed to oversee the contents. Each official wore garments with colors associated with their affiliated party, while some used face masks with specific colors, such as lime green or turquoise.
Earlier in the morning, SEC Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer said on radio outlets that 3,000 to 4,000 ballots were found, although spokesperson Griselle López told reporters that “there’s no official number available.”
“We now have electoral officers counting out every ballot that we’re finding inside the containers,” López said. “We can’t give an exact number yet.”
New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi’s electoral representative, Edwin Mundo, told members of the press that, out of the 182 ballot containers that were found, 125 actually contained ballots. The rest were empty, he said.
“No ballot container was lost; they were consolidated,” Mundo said. “I’ve always said that this is like a cake. You could slice the cake into 40 pieces, but it’s still one cake. As for the 126th container, there was one container that had a counting machine inside, [but] it wasn’t one filled with ballots, so I don’t count that.”
Meanwhile, Mundo said more ballots could pop up at the commission, which is still waiting for mail-in votes.
“If a ballot comes with a postmark after Nov. 3, it will be discarded,” he said. “If they have a postmark from or before Nov. 3, they will be counted.”
Mundo said “my people informed me that there were 6,646 ballots; only six of them are municipal ballots from San Juan.”
“San Juan is long over. You have to know how to lose,” he said, referring to the Citizens Victory Movement’s insistence that its candidate Manuel Natal Albelo still has a chance to overtake the NPP’s Miguel Romero in the San Juan mayor’s race. “The more [votes] they count, the more advantage Romero will have. The ones who lost must raise their hands and start [preparing their campaign] for four years from now,” he said. “Manuel had a very good campaign, for it being his first one.”
When the Star asked Mundo if it was appropriate for the NPP candidates to claim victory when the SEC hasn’t yet certified any candidate, Mundo replied that the SEC released a preliminary certification 72 hours after the electoral event so the candidate can appoint a transition committee, as Article 10.8 of the Electoral Code states.
It was pointed out that such a determination was taken from the 2011 Electoral Code, as Article 10.8 of the current code states that “when partial or preliminary results in an election cast a 100-vote, or 0.5 percent difference or less of the total of awarded votes for the seat, the Commission issues a vote recount in the [voting stations] that make up the geo-electoral demarcation of the candidacy affected by this narrow result.” Mundo responded that “the recall is part of the process, and scrutiny is part of the process, and everyone has to be notified that they have rights.”
However, as reporters corroborated the numbers provided by Pierluisi’s electoral representative, Puerto Rican Independence Party Electoral Commissioner Roberto Iván Aponte said “he wouldn’t dare to give any numbers” as some containers had early voting requests.
“I’m not going to predict any numbers. I’ve always said to listen to either the SEC chairman or the SEC associate chairman [Jessika Dory Padilla Rivera],” he said, emphasizing that neither politicians nor electoral commissioners have official numbers available.
Aponte added that “a final certification is what will prevail after the general scrutiny.”
Meanwhile, although NPP Electoral Commissioner Héctor Joaquín Sánchez said he wasn’t going to commit to saying how many ballots remained to be counted, he estimated that there were fewer than 10,000 ballots left.
“I was the only party [electoral commissioner] that advocated to continue the ballot count,” Sánchez said. “If we didn’t stop it, we would have been in another place.”