Flaws and frauds in the electoral system in Puerto Rico

By: Carlos E. Santos Ramos

During March, Puerto Rico was having a primary election to choose who will be the candidates for each major party in the November general election. Those parties were the “Partido Nuevo Progresista”  (PNP) and the “Partido Popular Democratico”(PPD). The story will focus on the election of a candidate for the PNP party to be mayor of Cidra and the alleged irregularities that happened that day. The winning candidate Javier Carrasquillo stated that the other candidate was allegedly bringing people from other parties to vote for him and also that he was paying to vote for him. Of course Pedro Cintron had also his own allegation that Carrasquillo’s election officials were emptying the electoral list and refusing electors. Also, the opinion of an election official and a expert lawyer in electoral law gave a background of what happen behind every primary.

Here is a ballot paper of the Partido Nuevo Progresista candidates. The lawyer said that the fraud is in erasing and invalidating marks.

According to the lawyer Carlos Flores the primaristic process in Puerto Rico is one very easy to cheat in, if your opponent does not have the knowledge of the electoral law. Flores said that the backbone for having a clean election is that each candidate has the enough election officials because they are the people in charge of counting each vote and defending him or her in case of a refusal. A hypothetical example would be elections that are three candidates and two of them have election officers and the other one does not. Because that candidate does not have anyone to watch his votes he is doomed to loose because the other two will make a deal to refuse the votes or will change the vote to steal it from the candidate that does not have the election officers. In contrast, the parties usually follow the illegal pattern of inflating their participation in the primaries to show who is the strongest in terms of numbers of electors. This pattern to inflate participation happens when the electoral officers sign for the people that do not come to vote and vote for their candidate. This may happen when the electoral officers are alone or when there is more than one officer, they make an agreement to share the votes between candidates. This might have happened in a very great scale in the Republican Primary in which there were more election officials of Mitt Romney that the ones that Rick Santorum and the other candidates had.

Here is Delvis in a the radio station that he works. The interview was on air because he was talking a little about his experience in as electoral officer, but some of the details in this story were not tell on air.

The electoral officer Delvis Pagan Clavijo from the PNP in the city of Cidra gave an opinion of what they do in the primary election. Delvis explained that if he does not have a sharp-eye in the process maybe he might miss some votes for his candidate because the other electoral officer may recuse the votes or do not count it. Delvis explained that not counting votes is the most common because is the easiest to do. Also he said the only way to have those votes count again is with a recount, vote by vote. According to the Electoral Code of Puerto Rico for the XXI Century, the only way to count vote by vote is in a victory by a less than one hundred votes or 0.05 percent.  He also said that to be an effective electoral officer you must be the first to arrive to the election college and the last to leave. Also Delvis said that a system of electronic vote would be good because it will fasten the process and will end all of this cheating system. However he said that is it going to be hard, because the people have fear of change.

A background of the Cidra election for PNP candidate for mayor was that neither of the candidates was the current major, because the PNP did not certify the mayor for candidate. Those candidates were Javier Carrasquillo and Pedro Cintron.  Cintron is the representant of Cidra, Cayey and Comerio in the House of Representatives and Carrasquillo was the candidate that was having backup from big leaders of the PNP. None of them was having help from the current mayor. During the campaign, both candidates haved some minors problems with each other but were all in a mood of respect toward each other. The day of the primary Carrasquillo said that some people informed him that people from other parties were voting for Cintron in the neighborhoods of Montellano and Arenas. Moreover, Cintron was also paying to them to vote. Naturally Cintron denied all of these imputations saying that he did not have money pay to people to vote and that was a, insane idea. Also Cintron said that the electoral officers of Carrasquillo were refusing electors that voted for him and that they were emptying the electoral list in favor of Carrasquillo.

It can he seen that the electoral system of Puerto Rico has a lot of flaws and it is not adapted to the new century. The system needs to let go of the vote on paper and make it by electronic vocation that would end the most of the allegations that the interviewed mentioned. However in Puerto Rico the politics would not allow this to happen so easy because they have a system that they can manipulate.


1 Comment

  1. karla dejesus said,

    May 18, 2012 at 12:00 am05

    Nice feature. I did not know that this happened and how they cheat during the elections. I agree with you that here they will not change the system easy because they can manipulatedd in their own way. By having an electronic system it would be easier nd harder to cheat on.

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