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NPP Depends on Massive Turnout in Status Plebiscite

By on June 4, 2017

While many are skeptical about the status plebiscite to be held on June 11, supporters of statehood see this consultation as the beginning of the process that will culminate in the granting of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Former Gov. Pedro Rosselló, under whose incumbency (1993-2001) two status consultations were held in which the statehood option lost, stressed in a radio interview that this vote has the objective political conditions to begin the process of defining the political relations between the United States and Puerto Rico. He also believes the number of participants in this event is not the most important thing—many expect voter turnout to be low—and that what is important is for the process to begin.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló speaks during an NPP rally. (CB photo)

“I guarantee that we will at least have one vote and it will be mine,” said the former governor, highlighting the importance of holding the plebiscite as part of other efforts being carried out to achieve statehood for the island.

With several political groups boycotting the event, Rosselló also minimized the importance of the number of voters who are expected to take part in the plebiscite, as the vast majority will be statehood supporters. Followers of independence and free association are boycotting the process because it includes the territory option as a decolonizing option and because the language of the enabling law, they allege, is skewed toward statehood.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP), for its part, also decided to boycott the process because commonwealth was not included as an option between statehood, independence and free association, even though on several occasions the party was asked to submit a definition of commonwealth that they would defend in the consultation. The PDP did not respond to such requests.

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The electoral commissioner of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), Norma Burgos, assured that “everything is going well, but there are people in the State Elections Commission obstructing the work,” she alleged.

She said, however, that her electoral team and the entire NPP is working to make the event happen and for it to be successful.

Although Burgos did not venture to predict numbers, she anticipated a good turnout. She emphasized that at the electoral level, there is already a team of about 19,000 people working, including alternate officials at all levels.

“We hope that many people, including nonstatehooders, will participate,” she said, adding that two people from the island’s western region were already certified to represent the independence option and another from the Movimiento Auténtico Soberanista (Authentic Sovereign Movement), Iván Rivera, to represent free association.

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The Marchemos (Let’s March on) group of independence supporters, headed by Samuel Quiñones and Michael González, was certified to represent the independence option, Burgos said.

On May 20, the CEE, as the State Elections Commission is known by its Spanish initials, carried out an electoral drill at about 110 polling stations to evaluate the operations and make adjustments as necessary.

During the drill, the CEE was able to review the event’s procedures because there are many new officials, said the commission President Liza García Vélez.

The CEE closed the official voting list at the end of April with some 2,273,206 eligible voters, but there is considerable skepticism about the number of voters who will participate in the consultation. About 2.5 million ballots and other voting materials were also printed.

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Sen. Juan Dalmau, of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, believes the NPP, which will essentially be the lone participant in the plebiscite, has a huge challenge to deliver a considerable number of voters on June 11 to ensure the process is not a failure, since in the 2012 elections, the NPP received over 850,000 votes and, in the 2016 elections, the pro-statehood party received some 630,000 votes.

“We have to see how many votes they will get in this consultation,” Dalmau said, adding he believes it will be difficult for the NPP to achieve similar numbers in the upcoming plebiscite.

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