‘Time to bring the island toward equality’
A somber turnout for vote to elect statehood lobbyists
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Although lacking the fervor and long lines from earlier electoral events, statehood supporters showed up at polling stations on Sunday to vote for six delegates from Puerto Rico who will lobby for statehood in the U.S. Congress starting July 1.
After initial expectations of a turnout of around 100,000 voters, New Progressive Party (NPP) Deputy Electoral Commissioner Edwin Mundo said Sunday that the special election for delegates to the U.S. Congress had a low voter turnout, as he estimated that closer to 85,000 island residents voted to choose a half-dozen statehood lobbyists to send to Washington, D.C.
However, Mundo defended the number of voters, noting that the event took place outside the election season and that only statehooders showed up at polling stations.
“All of the time, it was said [by the State Elections Commission] that there was no money for the elections,” Mundo said.
Around 6 p.m., Mundo said he had the results from around eight polling places, and that if the trends were to hold, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares could have a seat “at least at the federal House, if not the Senate.”
Although there was a decided lack of the fervor and long lines from earlier electoral events, statehood supporters did show up at polling stations on Sunday to vote for six delegates from Puerto Rico who will lobby for statehood in the U.S. Congress starting July 1.
Starting at 9 a.m., voters began participating at the electoral event in which State Elections Commission (SEC) Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer had said it was estimated that around 100,000 to 150,000 citizens would cast their vote.
Islanders had the choice of electing four House and two Senate delegate-candidates that will form the Puerto Rico Congressional Delegation, according to Law 167-2020, signed by then-Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced last December.
Candidates such as Roberto Lefranc Fortuño, Elizabeth Torres Rodríguez, Adriel Jared Vélez Torres, former Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez Altieri, Jorge Iván Rodríguez Feliciano and Ricardo Andrés Marrero Passapera were eligible for the House delegation, while former Correction and Rehabilitation Secretary Zoraida Buxó, Víctor Pérez Rentas, former NPP Caguas mayoral candidate Roberto López and former legislator Melinda Romero Donnelly were eligible for the Senate delegation.
However, other candidates were expected to garner write-in votes: former Gov. Rosselló Nevares, former Sen. Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer, former Puerto Rico Police Federal Monitor Arnaldo Claudio, former San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, attorney Gregorio Igartúa, John Regis, Carlos Rivera Ortiz, and Raúl Eduardo Rosas.
When the STAR asked a voter waiting at Dr. Conchita Cuevas High School why voting in the special election mattered, a person who preferred to remain unidentified said he voted because “the United States brings everything to our island.”
“Puerto Rico is not doing anything to move forward,” said the voter who, along with five other people, cast their votes when the polling station opened.
Meanwhile, another voter who preferred to remain anonymous claimed to have “voted write-in for Ricardo Rosselló.”
Special elections said ‘to keep statehood alive’
Former San Juan mayor and write-in House delegate-candidate Santini cast his vote at Mariano Abril Elementary School in Guaynabo.
When the STAR asked why the elections to choose delegates to the U.S. Congress were important for the statehood movement, Santini said the elected delegates “would keep statehood alive on the mainland.”
“We can’t let this moment simmer, when we have an administration that is supportive of statehood for Puerto Rico. If we don’t keep this up, we won’t have another chance,” said Santini, who was joined by his family who, he said, told him to participate in the special elections.
Meanwhile, Buxó, the former Correction and Rehabilitation secretary, said islanders were having the opportunity to choose six leaders “to make our claims for equal rights.”
“This is not a partisan matter, this is a civil rights matter that belongs to us American citizens,” said Buxó, who arrived with a friend “who is not affiliated with the New Progressive Party” and came to vote.
She said further that the ballot includes “a mix of young and experienced people” who want to advocate for statehood in the U.S. Capitol.
Puerto Rico Mayors Federation President Ángel Pérez Otero said he voted for Roberto Lefranc Fortuño for the delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives and Buxó for the U.S. Senate delegation, noting that both are from Guaynabo.
“I know both of them; they are professionals and I acknowledge their performance,” the Guaynabo mayor said. “I evaluated their academic preparation, I met with other candidates, heard their vision and, accordingly, I cast my votes. I also told my delegates it was important having young people representing us with new ideas, but also, to have people who have experience.”
Meanwhile, Lefranc Fortuño, who is a fresh face on the political scene, said the delegates would allow the island “to establish the agenda for Puerto Rico” at the federal level.
“It is time to bring the island toward equality,” Lefranc Fortuño said.