Superior Court: Minor political parties retain electoral franchise
PIP electoral commissioner: Ruling proves ‘the two-party system has ended and all sectors must be included’ at SEC
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
San Juan Superior Court Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos on Thursday revoked a resolution by State Elections Commission (SEC) Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer favoring Puerto Rico’s traditional major political parties over several minor parties in the matter of retaining administrative eligibility in the SEC following the recent general elections.
“The Court revokes Resolution CEE-RS-21-001 issued last January 5, 2021. Upon resolving that the revoked Resolution is contrary to the principle of electoral equality, we order the SEC to cease and desist from any and all efforts aimed at executing Resolution CEE-RS-21-001 immediately,” read Cuevas Ramos’ ruling. “By means of this ruling, it must be understood that this Court recognizes equal participation before the plenary of the State Elections Commission to the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), the Citizen Victory Movement (CVM) party, and the Dignity Project (DP) party.”
Under Rosado Colomer’s resolution, only the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party retained their so-called “proprietary electoral commissioners” at the SEC based on their having earned a minimum 25% of intact votes in last November’s elections.
Thursday’s ruling held that the aforementioned three minor parties registered for and requested electoral franchise back when the 2011 Electoral Code was in effect. That code was later repealed when then-governor Wanda Vázquez Garced signed a new code into law in June 2020. According to Cuevas Ramos’ ruling, all parties could remain eligible at the SEC because the sudden imposition of the current law had the effect of putting the minor parties “in a position of inferiority.”
PIP Electoral Commissioner Roberto Iván Aponte, who took the SEC chairman to court over the resolution, told the STAR that the ruling meant a victory “for the people and the electoral system” in the face of an Electoral Code that “was passed at the end of the road and brought problems during the primaries, the general elections, and the general vote count.”
He added that Cuevas Ramos’ ruling is on the right track because “it reflects what was the resounding message of the Puerto Rican people with the historic election results,” in which PIP gubernatorial candidate Juan Dalmau Ramírez obtained 174,402 votes on Nov. 3.
“A plurality of voices is needed, and at the moment of discussion and decision making, all parties must be at the discussion table,” Aponte said. “I consider that these times prove that the two-party system has ended and all sectors must be included.”
“The ruling addresses some important issues,” the PIP electoral commissioner added. “He [Cuevas Ramos] points out that the economic issue is incidental to the rest of the rights that are affected, such as freedom of expression, both in exercising the vote and in making determinations in the State Elections Commission.”
CVM Electoral Commissioner Olvin Valentín, meanwhile, told the STAR that the ruling was “democratically the correct and fair thing to do.”
Valentín said such a determination also matters as the SEC commences investigations into the 2020 general elections after the Inspector General’s Office in December pointed out irregularities during the electoral process, including a lack of organization within the Absentee and Early Voting Administrative Board.
“As legislators begin to work on reforming the electoral process, [a project] on which the commission, its electoral commissioners, and their respective parties should be collaborating, the SEC, internally, should be working as soon as possible to finalize audits from the recent elections, and face the failures and issues that remained pending to try and correct those problems,” Valentín said. “The [SEC] needs to work on rethinking the electoral processes such as the [handling of] ballot cases, the tallies, and every other aspect that can be worked on without waiting for the law to change.”
Aponte said the Legislature meanwhile must begin debate on the electoral process and reach a consensus on “how the game will be played.”
“I hope that Governor [Pedro] Pierluisi will come to his senses and join this effort,” the PIP electoral commissioner said. “The NPP can no longer analyze things as if they had more than 50% of the votes like they had in the past.”