New Elections Commission president pledges to restore confidence to electoral process
Says general election will be held Nov. 3; commissioners work on schedule, regulations
SAN JUAN – The new president of Puerto Rico’s State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials), Francisco Rosado Colomer, said Tuesday that he was confident the Nov. 3 general election will not have to be postponed, but acknowledged that the calendar and regulations process leading up to the elections has yet to be completed.
“I have not identified anything [indicating] that the elections cannot take place Nov. 3,” he said during a press conference after taking the oath of office along with Alternate Commissioner Jessika D. Padilla Rivera, a day after both judges were selected unanimously by the five electoral commissioners representing the island’s registered political parties.
His predecessor, Juan Ernesto Dávila Rivera, stepped down Friday after widespread criticism and calls to resign over his role in the unprecedented interruption of the Aug. 9 primaries held for candidates of the New Progressive Party (NPP) and Popular Democratic Party (PDP), the island’s largest, including those for governor, due to the CEE failing to deliver ballots to more than half of the island’s election precincts.
After the decision was challenged in court by NPP and PDP gubernatorial candidates, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court upheld the CEE decision to complete the primaries on Aug. 16.
“We are just starting. This is not an ordinary beginning, like on a July 1, [or] with several years for one to prepare for this event,” said Rosado, who acknowledged the public’s uncertainty regarding the election process after the botched primaries. “What is most important is that…everyone has the will and seems to be in agreement that we should restore people’s trust, given what has happened with electoral events.”
While Rosado admitted that there has been no transition process coordinated with Dávila, he said he expects a person designated by the former CEE head to provide him with the scheduled work plan in the form of a bar chart to track the progress to date of preparations for the general election. He said this was needed to move onto a “critical phase” of preparedness.
“To mark a ballot involves a framework set up beforehand, which is what we are evaluating. We are trying to identify where the process is at,” he said, noting Tuesday that he had met with the election commissioners and the island’s postmaster general “to see where we are at in terms of the mail-in ballot process.”
“A lot has been said of the ballots, but we also have to approve the regulations for this event and carry out drills to test” communication on election day, he said. “I understand the anxiety and our mission is to eliminate that uncertainty.”
Rosado stressed the importance of a working relationship with Padilla and of delegating tasks.
“If during the event one of us is not available, the other takes over to avoid halting operations,” he said.
As the clock runs out with 55 days left until Nov. 3, Padilla said that alternate election commissioners were meeting Wednesday afternoon to reach a consensus and hash out differences over a “potential draft” of regulations for the elections that have yet to be approved.