Puerto Rico Court of Appeals halts final referendum vote count
SAN JUAN – The electoral commissioner of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), María de Lourdes Santiago, said Friday afternoon that the Court of Appeals ordered the General Scrutiny of the status referendum halted immediately, following the presentation of a new motion to that effect, filed jointly Thursday with the electoral commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Miguel Ríos.
The court’s determination comes about after the PIP’s allegations over possible irregularities in the June 11 status referendum. The State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials) had resumed Thursday the final vote count of the plebiscite in which statehood won 97 percent of the votes cast by 23 percent of the island’s eligible voters.
Even though the CEE official assured the process was running normally, Santiago denounced “multiple irregularities,” especially with respect to votes added by hand and results at polling stations.
Santiago said during a Facebook Live broadcast that her party appealed in court the determination to leave—beyond the presence of the table director—the PIP out of the scrutiny tables, but criticized that the hearing was scheduled for next week, by when the counting process is expected to be over.
The PIP electoral commissioner explained that, in the case of votes added manually, nearly 70 signed ballots had been found with only four signatures. “How is it that there are 66 people voting and they didn’t sign? But not only not signing, many people who voted by hand did not have their voter ID withheld [as required by the CEE],” she denounced.
Meanwhile, the deputy electoral commissioner of the PIP, Adrián González, denounced irregularities with the vote of the police, since there is no list of officers authorized to vote near where they work. Rather, there were countless people who voted at other polling places that didn’t correspond to them, he said.
CEE Interim President María Dolores Santiago Rodríguez explained to Caribbean Business that the Court of First Instance had said Thursday that the non-partisan representations of the “free association/independence” status option were the ones to participate in the general scrutiny, not political parties.
This confirms the claim made by New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Norma Burgos, who alleged on June 17 that it had been illegal to allow the PIP and Popular Democratic (PDP) parties to participate in the general scrutiny. Judge Lauracelis Roque Arroyo had stopped the June 19 count until listening to the arguments of the parties involved.
For the count the CEE has 60 tables, of which 20 are under NPP control, 20 under the PDP, and 20 under the PIP. NPP representation for the “statehood” option, and the groups Marchemos, Movimiento Acción Soberanista (MAS) and Alianza Patria for “free association/independence” can be found in the counting-tables’ layout.
Other work areas deal with special votes, such as votes added by hand, absentee ballots, votes from bedridden people and from prisoners.
“The expectation of the director of general scrutiny is that it be five days of work. At the moment, nothing has arrived to be dealt with [regarding irregularities in the process] at the CEE’s table,” the commission’s interim president had said earlier Friday.