Monday, July 24, 2017

Status referendum process affected by commonwealth inclusion

By on April 17, 2017

SAN JUAN –– Including the commonwealth in the June 11 political-status plebiscite, as demanded by the U.S. Justice Department, has affected work procedures for the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish acronym).

CEE President Liza García Vélez explained that ballot printing was originally scheduled to begin Monday but won’t be resumed until the administration decides the ballot’s outline once they add the territorial Commonwealth status option, in order to ensure adequate use of the public funds allocated for this plebiscite.

“I have requested to halt the process until we have the amendments with the Commission’s steps to follow,” García Vélez said, adding that she anticipates the modified language to be approved this week, as foretold by La Fortaleza.

Puerto Rico Capitol (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration included the Commonwealth in the political-status plebiscite, as requested by the U.S. Justice Department, even though the referendum was originally conceived to decolonize Puerto Rico via statehood or free association/independence. Pictured, the Puerto Rico Capitol in San Juan. (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

According to the CEE’s work calendar, the ballots will be sent for printing no later than May 15.

Because the CEE is abiding to the calendar established by the Immediate Decolonization Act (Act 7 of 2017), which sets the date for the referendum, García Vélez said they will wait for the act’s amendments in order to decide if they can comply with the dates scheduled for the plebiscitary process. In addition, they must wait for agreements with suppliers to print the ballots and rent equipment for the voting process.

For his part, La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario reiterated that the plebiscite will still be conducted on June 11.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his advisers evaluated Saturday U.S. Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente‘s observations, in which he overrode the referendum as enacted for excluding the territorial status as a viable alternative. The governor said his administration will make the necessary adjustments to be backed up by the federal government, and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz affirmed these amendments will be approved as early as next Tuesday.

See also: U.S. to Puerto Rico: Add another option to status referendum

Moreover, the CEE president warned that including the commonwealth won’t be the only amendment in need of revision. García Vélez explained that adding that status option entails redesigning the ballot, which itself implies a revision on text and design, such as ensuring a readable font size for each alternative’s definition.

Meanwhile Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez stated his party will vote against the amendment to include the territorial status as a ballot option.

Initially, when the Immediate Decolonization Act was still under development, the PIP questioned the need to consult the U.S. Justice Department, and argued that if the ballot was modified to include the commonwealth the collective would reevaluate its participation in the referendum.

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