The legal repercussions of the primary disaster

By The Star Staff

The “disaster” that took place in the primary Sunday as numerous polling stations did not have electoral materials to allow people to vote could have repercussions beyond the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) processes.

The postponement of the primaries until next Sunday (Aug. 16) after many voters were unable to cast ballots because the materials were not delivered to the voting places due to the printing not being completed, also puts into question the purity of the vote and could lead to litigation, several attorneys said.

Former Justice Secretary Antonio Sagardía did not dismiss the possibility that what happened on Sunday could be punishable. Article 3.9 of the Electoral Code lists crass negligence as one of the reasons to oust a State Elections Commission (SEC) chairman. Later Sunday, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced asked for Juan Ernesto Dávila’s resignation.

Sagardía said via Twitter that the SEC had the obligation to count on Sunday the votes that were cast or “they would be acting illegally.”

Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, who is running for a legislative seat under the Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (Citizen Victory Movement), said that for a punishable crime to have been committed, the individuals responsible must have had criminal intent.

“In here, the problem was that the new Electoral Code approved by the NPP caused the layoff of people with the experience and knowledge of how to do these processes, so there is a shared blame,” she said. “This was not just the SEC.”

Rivera Lassén said what happened in the primaries will have an impact on the November general election.

“This has a domino effect because as long as the primary process is not finished, the process of printing ballots for the election will be delayed,” she said. “Therefore, we may see a repeat of this during the election.”

She said she would be urging the Citizen Victory Movement to place observers at the polling stations on Sunday.

Pedro Pierluisi, one of the candidates in the NPP gubernatorial primary, said he objected to the suspension of the primaries and urged his officials to remain at the polling stations. He also said all cast ballots had to be counted.

“I am urging them to work and count the votes,” he said.

Edwin Mundo, Pierluisi’s campaign director, said he was going to ask Pierluisi to take the matter to court because the law does not allow for the suspension of the primaries.

The court system was open Sunday to mediate any electoral disputes.

Mundo said he objected to the suspension because officials were able to take electoral materials to 102 of the 110 voting precincts and that covering the rest of the precincts was not going to take long.

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