• The Star Staff

SEC officials: Early voting could bring strategic problems

By The Star Staff

About 227,812 people have requested early voting for the Nov. 3 general election, a number that State Elections Commission (SEC) officials say is unprecedented and poses strategic problems because some 105,371 are requests to vote from home.

In addition, some 54,714 individuals who requested early voting asked to be able to mail in their ballots, which they have until Election Day to do with a dated postmark, and the rest are people who requested to vote at the polling stations.

“These mail-in ballots can be put in the mail on Election Day and will arrive after that date,” said Héctor Luis Acevedo, who advises the Popular Democratic Party (PDP). “This is a real invitation to not know who truly won the election on the same day.”

The last election was decided by 46,000 votes.

The real problem, however, is with the 105,371 voters who requested the vote-from-home option, because there are not enough election officials to be able to pick up those ballots at the voters’ residences. Officials can start counting those votes on Oct. 25.

“Since these are unprecedented numbers, the quantity of routes to be covered will be greater,” PDP Electoral Commissioner Nelson Rodríguez said in a televised interview. “We have to increase the number of routes.”

Acevedo said the SEC should request additional funds from the Financial Oversight and Management Board in order to pay per diems to the volunteers so they can help out with the home vote because it will take them a week to collect all of those votes. He said there could be a repeat of the primary election in which the results of the primary were not known until later.

Puerto Rican Independence Party Electoral Commissioner Roberto Aponte said the early vote depends on the number of volunteers that each political party deploys, but noted that “if the person is not at home, and they should be, the person can always vote at the [polling station] on Election Day.”

The validation of the early vote by mail will be subject to the voter having included a copy of their electoral identification card or any other valid and authorized photo identification.

Who can request an early vote? The new Electoral Code establishes that -- at a minimum -- early voting must be available at early voting centers for people imprisoned in penal institutions, bedridden patients in their homes and at hospitals, and people over 60 years of age who spend the night in lodging houses.

However, the new code expanded the categories of people who could request early voting to include:

1. Workers -- any person who is a public, private or self-employed worker who affirms that they must be in their workplace within Puerto Rico, provided that the workplace is located outside their home

2. Sole caregivers -- any person who is the only person available in the family nucleus of their home for the care of children under 14 years of age, people with disabilities and the sick who are bedridden at home

3. Hospitalized individuals - any person who is confined as a patient in a hospital or long-term healthcare or treatment institution

4. Candidates -- any person who in the electoral event is a primary candidate or candidate for elective public office

5. Travelers -- any voter who, upon expiration of the term for submitting absentee or early voting requests, became aware before election day that they will be physically outside of Puerto Rico for any reason on the day of voting

6. People with functional diversity -- any person with functional diversity (previously understood as “physical impairment”) or legal blindness who, during the 50 days prior to a vote and until the day of the vote, has been and will continue to use a wheelchair, crutches, equipment or devices that are essential to achieve mobility or have obvious limitations in movement using their legs, even if they do not use a support device

7. People with an easily accessible vote at home -- any person with limited mobility or who is bedridden with some type of medical condition that prevents them from going to their polling station.

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