There’s No Unified Early Votes List, Election Commission Argues
Judge: Lists must be provided to each election commissioner
SAN JUAN — The State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish acronym) agreed to submit the latest list of people who applied for early and absentee voting but its legal counsel, along with that of the New Progressive Party (NPP) argued that a consolidated list of people who voted those ways does not exist.
The partial agreement was the result of a lawsuit filed by electoral commissioner of the Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC, or Citizens’ Victory Movement), Olvin Valentín, who requested the commission submit the lists of those who requested early and absentee voting and of those who actually voted those ways.
At a hearing Tuesday, Judge Rebecca de León Ríos approved the agreement for the CEE to hand over copies of the final lists of early and absentee voting applications by all the election commissioners by Wednesday at noon. But regarding the question of the final list of early and mail-in voters, after hours of court-ordered negotiations, the judge intervened to order the CEE to produce the lists as ballot boxes are opened for the final vote canvass, or General Scrutiny process.
“My reading of the Law, of the regulations is that today, tomorrow, the day after, those documents, my reading is that they must be delivered,” Judge de León said at the beginning of the hearing. She repeated that sentiment toward the end of the hearing after pushback from CEE and NPP attorneys.
Meanwhile, MVC lawyers Manuel Rodríguez Banchs and Luis José Asencio argued that repeated attempts to acquire the documents from the Administrative Board of Early and Absentee Voting, the Office of Information Systems and Electronic Processing, and through CEE Chairman Francisco Rosado Colomer were unsuccessful. The lawyers stressed that they were asking for documents that are needed for the vote counting process to be completed.
“There are two lists. Two lists that are necessary for the entire scrutiny process, that are necessary to count, for example, the votes added by hand, that the commission must have in its possession, for which there is no reason to delay its delivery, your honor. It is part of the demand for transparency, it is part of an electoral process that has been run over since the primaries last summer,” Rodríguez said.
Rodríguez also indicated that the Puerto Rican Independence Party, represented by Juan Mercado Nieves, had no objections to MVC’s petition, and that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), represented by Jorge Martínez Luciano, had joined the petition. While the Proyecto Dignidad (PD) party, represented by Germán Ufret Pérez, opposed the MVC petition, in its own opposition motion also states that the CEE has not produced said documents.
For their part, the CEE lawyer Félix Passalacqua and the NPP lawyers Carlos Rivera Justiniano and Francisco González presented the same arguments both in their motions and throughout the hearing, including alluding to the same annexes or documents. The original argument of the CEE and the NPP was that the court had no jurisdiction because it was an electoral matter to be resolved internally and that the plaintiffs could access the documents through an internal process.
After the court established jurisdiction and that the documents had not been provided to the election commissioners, the CEE and the NPP contended that there was no unified list of voters who used the early and mail-in voting methods, although those votes have already been tallied. Passalacqua said the names are reviewed when the ballot boxes are opened during General Scrutiny.
In a final objection, Rivera argued that when the law says the list must be made available, it doesn’t mean actually giving copies to the election commissioners. The judge stated that in her interpretation of the law , to meet the requirement of access to information established in Act 58 of 2020, each commissioner must be provided a copy.
After the PDP alluded to the possibility that the CEE would act in a way that is not expressly in violation of the court order but against the spirit of her decree, the judge said, “I hope that doesn’t happen, [I hope] that there will be good faith. The people are watching.”