• The Star Staff

Supreme Court: Primaries to resume Sunday; votes already cast are valid

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that party primaries will continue this Sunday in the voting places that did not receive ballots on Aug. 9 or that did not begin voting despite having electoral materials.

The island’s high court also ruled that all the votes already cast are valid and that all votes will be counted only after the process has concluded.

The ruling, which was divided, was made in the Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Eduardo Bhatia Gautier v. State Elections Commission (SEC) and others. Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado Altieri had asked the court to hold the primaries before Sunday. Bhatia and Pierluisi wanted the SEC to issue preliminary results, while Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced wanted last Sunday’s entire primary to be scrapped.

The continuation of the political primaries must take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as established by SEC primary regulations. That is, voters who were unable to vote last Sunday (Aug. 9) because their polling station did not open due to a lack of ballots, will now be able to exercise their right to vote, the top court ruled.

Likewise, the Supreme Court said the ballots of the people who voted on Aug. 9 are valid and will not be annulled. The court said the poor administration of the political primaries left thousands of voters without the opportunity to express their political will and that is not consistent with the constitutional and statutory principles that demand the right to universal, free, secret and direct suffrage.

The justices concluded that the circumstances that permeated the primary cannot be a stumbling block that invalidates voting rights.

Because the primaries have not concluded, the top court also prohibited the disclosure of any preliminary or official results to protect and guarantee the constitutional right of the voters. The SEC must take the necessary measures to start the voting in the remaining polling places on time and promptly disclose the results of all the votes cast after the end of the primary.

“Let’s hope that, in the name of democracy, there are no more failures, inefficiencies, errors or delays,” the court said. “Any other result or deviation from what is stated here would be clearly unacceptable.”

Regarding the complaint filed by citizen Carmen Damaris Quiñones Torres, the court took judicial notice that the polling station at Francisco Prisco Fuentes School is located in Precinct 106 of the Carolina region, where the voting will be carried out next Sunday and that therefore her right to vote will not be negatively affected.

The SEC issued a statement noting that the Supreme Court’s ruling confirmed its own determination.

The SEC urged the public to vote and to trust the island’s election process.

“We will take all affirmative measures to restore the trust of the people in our institution and the election process,” the SEC said in the statement.

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