CEE up to its Neck in Debt and Work, Just Weeks Before General Primaries
This will be a crucial week for the State Elections Commission (CEE by its initials in Spanish) regarding payments to the printers that produce the voting ballots to be used in the general primaries on June 5, as well as for Dominion Voting, the company responsible for the electronic voting system.
CEE President Liza García Vélez said to Caribbean Business that she hopes the Puerto Rico Treasury Department puts these payments on priority so that its work on the primaries may continue.
“This week is going to be very important regarding payments to suppliers. We trust that Treasury will place us on the priority list to pay suppliers that are providing us with indispensable services in order to carry out the primaries,” said García Vélez, adding that some $4.6 million is owed for the printers and $2.6 million to Dominion, which should have been paid in December 2015.
“Without the payment to the printers, we won’t have ballots,” said García Vélez, pointing out that there are fewer than 45 days remaining for the event.
She said that in the case of Dominion, a commitment to carry out monthly payments to settle an outstanding debt of $8 million that expired in December 2015 has not been met. Of this debt, there is still $2.6 million to be paid, while the company continues to provide training and to deliver equipment for the primaries.
Regarding the voting centers that will be opened for the general primaries, she said the CEE asked the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Progressive Party (NPP) to search for alternative centers so as to avoid renting private schools and universities that have been used in other events.
“We have been in talks with these private centers to see if we could pay less rent,” García Vélez said. She said the NPP has plans to open 3,000 voting centers for the primaries and the PDP plans to open 2,000 centers. The NPP will hold primaries for all positions, including governor, resident commissioner, representatives, senators and mayors, while the PDP will not have primaries for the governor’s post.
García Vélez said that an order from the federal court to activate voters who did not vote in the general elections of 2008 and 2012 was complied with in August of last year, increasing the number of electoral registrations to more than 700,000 voters.
“The electoral situation is that we will not have a refined registry for these primaries and this will be reflected in a greater number of abstentions because we do not know if [these] people are residing in Puerto Rico or if they are deceased,” she said.
The CEE had initially requested some $15 million to cover the cost of the general primaries, but in the end, $10 million was approved, of which Treasury has provided some $7.2 million. In addition, the CEE has also requested from Treasury $600,000 for the Working People’s Party, the last party to officially register.
“This will be a crucial week because we are going back to Treasury, asking that it carry out the payment to suppliers, mainly for the printers, and to Dominion in order to keep working on the primaries,” she said.
García Vélez said the CEE is working to ensure that the printers, which will provide some 40,000 ballots for training purposes, and Dominion will continue working so that the process is not affected.
“But we have to pay them,” she said.