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Allegations of Electoral Fraud Surface in Absentee Ballot Requests

By on October 5, 2016

SAN JUAN—The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) challenged Tuesday about a thousand absentee ballot requests that the New Progressive Party (NPP) has submitted to the State Elections Commission (SEC) for alleged irregularities in the process, such as granting the privilege to people who had no problems of mobility.

pnprallyThe formal complaint was made by PDP Electoral Commissioner Guillermo San Antonio Acha, who said that to certify absentee ballots from people who are confined to bed, for instance, the PNP “has used doctors who have not visited patients, do not have their license up to date, are public employees who are not allowed to do private work, and have [in the past] certified people who have passed away and people who walk properly as well,” which represents a violation of electoral law.

The PDP Electoral Commissioner not only called to invalidate said requests for being “contrary to law and fraudulent” but submitted complaints against physicians involved with the Medical Licensing Board and the Physicians and Surgeons Association.

He added that the president of the SEC, Liza Garcia, has about ten days to clear up the controversy. Determinations regarding absentee ballot requests are carried out by a special board that visits voters the week before the Nov. 8 elections, per the latest amendments to electoral law. There have been around 10,000 absentee ballot requests that have been submitted before the Sept. 19 deadline, San Antonio Acha said.

“We will protect every single vote and we will denounce any attempts at manipulation. […] During previous electoral events, there have been mail-in votes from people who are not bed-ridden, [for instance]. Limits have been imposed since then to prevent possibilities of fraud, and we will not allow [any further irregularities to continue],” he said.

One of the cases he highlighted took place in Juana Diaz, where Dr. Rosalia Santiago signed 51 absentee ballots for bed-ridden voters, but when asked later, could not say whether she had visited all of the voters.

Santiago, who is employed by the Corporation Insurance Fund State (CFSE), Ponce region, did not request a waiver to carry out paid tasks outside of her public employment, even though such an action could be interpreted as a conflict of interest.

Another case occurred in Las Piedras, where the doctor who signed away absentee ballot requests did not visit the voters, but instead sent one of his employees, who is not a doctor.

In Utuado, Dr. Dennis Rivera, a municipal legislator candidate for the NPP, signed 78 requests without the proper authorization from the Medical Licensing Board at the time, said Utuado Mayor Ernesto Irizarry. The other cases took place in Arecibo, Añasco and Jayuya.

The PDP electoral commissioner said that all complaints were against the NPP and denied there were any similar irregularity in his own party.

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