Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Puerto Rico fiscal board calls for changes to Elections Commission

By on January 21, 2019

SAN JUAN – The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico recommended the Government of Puerto Rico to take steps to “adjust the operations” of the island’s State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish intials) to “fluctuate with the electoral cycle” and restructure its organization to become more efficient.

In a letter to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos Méndez Núñez, the board said the CEE’s operations “do not match the needs that it serves or the fiscal reality of the Island.”

“The CEE should be most active in the year leading up to an election but can and should significantly reduce its operations in the remaining three years of an electoral cycle. This is what comparable electoral commissions do in most states” Chairman José Carrión wrote in the letter.

The board pointed out that the CEE’s structure is “highly bureaucratic and costly compared to state elections commissions and offices,” including a “complex organizational chart, with a president, three vice presidents, one electoral commissioner per party (currently three), alternate commissioners, a secretary, an under-secretary,” staff and “more than 85 Local Registration Boards spread across the Island…incurring personnel and administrative expenses.”

The board added that, according to Office of Management and Budget data, the CEE has approximately “700 employees yet it does not provide the residents of Puerto Rico with the ability to leverage technology to register to vote online or renew their voting cards like states and countries do.”

Savings began

CEE President Juan Ernesto Dávila Rivera said that continuing to transform the government entity was necessary.

He said changes in the CEE have already begun, such as 35 Permanent Registration Boards (JIP by its Spanish initials) having been moved to Integrated Services Center and central and municipal government offices, which would result in “projected multimillion-dollar savings in the long term.”

In addition, he said, “we have 22 JIPs that will soon move to public places. Despite the achievements, there is still much to be done.”

Dávila Rivera concluded by stating: “It has been mentioned in the public sphere that the discussion of electoral reform will begin very soon. This juncture is timely to discuss the changes necessary for the CEE to be more efficient. It is up to the Governor, the Legislative Assembly, the Political Parties and this servant to sit down at the table and reflect on the future of the CEE.”

Its recommendation, the board said, is “pursuant to Section 205(a)” of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa), which allows it to submit recommendations to steer the government into compliance with the fiscal plan “or to otherwise promote the financial stability, economic growth, management responsibility and service delivery efficiency of the Government,” the release reads. “Under Section 205(b), the Government has 90 days to provide an answer to the Oversight Board’s recommendation.”

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