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Independent Candidates And Fewer Voters Could Mark Next Election

By on December 31, 2015

SAN JUAN – The deadline for the filing of applications for candidacies for the next general election came with a total of 11 independent candidates, eight candidates for governor, and no other significant news. 
Of the eight gubernatorial hopefuls that had filed their applications before the State Elections Commission (SEC), only Pedro Pierluisi and Ricardo Rosselló will face each other in a primary to determine who will be the New Progressive Party’s candidate for governor. 
After the period for submitting the applications for the different candidacies came to a close, former Department of State Secretary David Bernier, became Popular Democratic Party’s candidate for governor. No other “Popular” came forward to contest Bernier. 
The same happened in the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and in the Working People’s Party (PPT by its initials in Spanish), where Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago and Prof. Rafael Bernabe, respectively, were the only ones to file for gorvernor.
Independent candidates to Puerto Rico’s governorship, Manuel Cidre, Alexandra Lúgaro and Rafael López Verge have up until February 15, 2016 to present some 27,000 endorsements before the SEC in order to be certified as candidates and have their names and likeness printed in the official ballots. 
Shortly before Wednesday noon, the deadline for file all candidacy applications and related documents, an unidentified woman from Cataño arrived at the SEC, where she had already submitted some documents as independent candidate for governor.  She wanted to change her candidacy application to run for senator because she had “changed her mind.” The SEC didn’t authorize the change because she didn’t have the required documentation, explained SEC’s president Liza García Vélez. 
Of the 11 independent candidates, three are aspiring for positions as mayors of Aguadilla, Las Piedras and Vieques, while public health professional José Vargas Vidot, filed for senator at-large. 
Up until Wednesday, Cidre had presented 4,022 out of the required 27,000 endorsements, while Lúgaro had presented 3,315. 
María de Lourdes Guzmán, who’s bidding for a seat at the House of Representative for San Juan’s District 4 has submitted only 75 out of the 1,361 required endorsements. 
Vélez García informed aspiring candidates have until February 1st, 2016 to submit 50 percent of the required endorsement and until February 15th to complete the endorsements to be certified as candidates. 
Vález García added she is still in the process of preparing this fiscal year’s budget with the electoral commissioners. She is hoping to get $36 million for the electoral process and an additional $35 million for the SEC’s operations in FY 2016. So far the SEC has only received $1.2 million for the primary election, out of the $10 million the Management and Budget Office (OGP for its initials in Spanish) said it would allot. 
The SEC president’s emphasis on the need to receive the funds –aside from the funds for the electoral process– or at least have them allotted because of the amount of contracts that need to be formalized for the electoral year, such as the one for the ballot boxes and materials for electoral colleges, among others. 
For the 2012 election, $36.6 million were budgeted for the process with an average of 325 voters for each electoral college and 1,533 electoral units. Voter turnout was 1.86 million for a 78 percent participation.
For the 2016 general election it is estimated the electoral list will close with 2.2 million registered voters. That would be some 300,000 less than in 1976, said SEC secretary Walter Vélez.

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