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Judge suspends Puerto Rico status referendum vote count

By on June 19, 2017

State Commission Elections President Liza García and NPP Electoral Commissioner Norma Burgos. (Efrén Rodríguez / CB)

SAN JUAN – Superior Judge Lauracelis Roques Arroyo ordered an immediate halt to the vote count of the June 11 political-status referendum that was supposed to begin Monday, after New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Norma Burgos requested the court to exclude the two parties inscribed in the vote count process.

Last week, Burgos had challenged last week in court the decision of the president of the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish acronym), Liza García Vélez, of including the Popular Democratic (PDP) and Puerto Rican Independence (PIP) Parties in the vote count tables.

The court ruled that “that suspension begins as of today, June 19, 2017, at 11:15 a.m.,” reads the judge’s order from the Court of First Instance in San Juan.

The decision clarifies that the suspension doesn’t constitute the adjudication of merits of the petitioner’s claim.

Burgos’s action, PDP Electoral Commissioner Miguel Ríos Torres said, will trigger that the process by which the vote count is held won’t begin today, as had been established.

The CEE has not reacted to the controversy, which will be addressed Thursday in court in a hearing cited by Judge Roques Arroyo, who also determined to suspend the process immediately.

Burgos, meanwhile, claimed that the legal controversy arose because the CEE president allegedly intended to amend Act 7 for Puerto Rico’s Immediate Decolonization and the rulings that were approved to make the vote possible.

She said she sought to allow parties to have participation in the vote count, when it was established in the law that the process would be delivered by officials from the three status options: statehood, free association / independence and the “territorial” option.

Burgos also challenged in court an amendment the CEE president allegedly made to one of the referendum’s regulations to audit the election process.

The NPP official claimed the change was introduced after April 21, the deadline to make amendments.

Ríos said it is now up to the court to cite them to discuss the dispute’s merits and finally discuss what to do with the vote count.

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