In the midst of boicot callings and warnings for plausibles non-fulfilments over the language adopted on the ballot paper, the State Elections Commission (CEE, Spanish acronym) is trying in all haste to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that are still left to arrange for the June 11th status consultation.
Even though the plebiscite does not entail the complexity of general elections, it is still an event that requires multiple coordination, which goes from the printing of 2.5 millions ballot papers to the making of contingency plans that can guarantee the reliability and transparency of results.
Among those aspects in which the CEE is still working, there is the setting of the machines that will make the electronic ballot count and the confection of the purchase, auction and necessary services for the event and the general vote count which will start June 19th, as said to El Nuevo Día by the president of the CEE, Liza García.
“Here the difference and the complexity lays, not only in the participation, but in how complex it is to have an opening of candidatures with endorsements, in the amount of ballot papers and in the staging in terms of programming”, she specified.
The plebiscite will take place next June 11th and will imply a $7.8 million investment of State funds. The expenditure of $2.5 millions from the federal authorities, designated by Barack Obama administration, has not happen because it depends on the United States Department of Justice to endorse the consultation, which has not happened even after the government amended the plebiscite law by a requirement made from that agency.
To fulfill the formalities to hold the event depends, in great measure, on the CEE receiving the $2.5 million on state funds that will substitute the ones expected to be received from the federal government, such as the expenditure money, already identified by the Government Development Bank (GDB), for the status consultation.
From the $2.5 million expected from the federal government, $2 million were for orientation and $500,000 for the ballot papers payment which were sent for printing for a cost of $700,000. The ballot papers are expected to be received on June 2nd.
The plebiscite, boycotted by the opposition political parties, offers the voter a choice between the statehood, the current territorial status and the independence or commonwealth.
As a first step to continue with the event organization, García asked for a $1 million payment in advance, which has not happened, as confirmed yesterday by the Governor spokeswoman, Yennifer Álvarez.
The electoral commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party, Miguel Ríos, criticised the expenditure of almost $8 million on public funds for this consultation, while cuts in other areas abound.
“The Commission could be ready and they will search underground for the money needed to carry on with this plebiscite, whoever they take it from… If they prefer to fight with 179 school communities with one hand and with the other to spend $7.8 million on this plebiscite that is not going anywhere, there you have the parameters of what they are willing to do”, he denounced.
The Popular Democratic Party along with the Puerto Rican Independentist Party (PIP), have called electors not to go to the polls on June 11th.
“The PNP has ended making a shameful spectacle: they gave in to the Department of Justice for $2.5 million that have not arrived and now they had to force local resources, and there they reflect the worst of the colonial mentality, that submission”, stated the PIP electoral commissioner, María de Lourdes Santiago
The day of the event
It is the third electoral event in which the electronic count will be used. The experience in the primary elections and last general elections allowed the CEE to adjust the processes of counting, assured García. “We now see the technical scenery clearer, we made tests, so we foresee to have the results early”, she setted.
The key, however, lies in two aspects, and one of them is not under CEE control: that the electors do not wait to vote until the last moment, which will delay the closure of colleges and, therefore, the ballot papers counting.
The CEE considers the possibility of setting more than one electronic counting machine in some electoral colleges.
“When we work with technology, we know (there will be) machines (that) will break down and wires (that will) shut down, but we have our own alternative plan to send additional machines and use the emergency compartments for the voting to continue”, she said.
At the moment, they plan to have a machine in every one of the 4,257 colleges designated for the event in approximately 1,500 voting centers. The CEE counts with 6,075 machines.
“We are making an analysis with the technicians to see if it is possible to include about 1,000 additional machines in the colleges which had greater participation in the general election”, she stated. There are also 1,457 colleges designated for manually added electors, which, even though they are registered, do not appear on the voting lists that day.
“We have our hands full on the whole process, ending one or another handbook related to the event too and working as always in the administrative area that, as a natural effect of the process, as the date gets closer, well we have to tune up because we already have more certainties of the goods and services proposals”, added García.
García noted that the announcement of the closure of 179 campuses does not necessarily had an impact on the voting centers designation, there will be changes.
She said that, actually they are conversing withmayors and representatives of the Department of Education and other entities to ensure that the centers used for the general elections, are still available.
“Different from other electoral events in which we published all voting centers, we will be publishing, nearer to the date of the event, only those that are going to change”, indicated García.
Who and how long
Every voter that has exercised the right to vote in the last general elections will be able to participate in the plebiscite.
For the plebiscite, there are 2,273,208 electors registered, almost 600,000 less than the ones that could participate in June 2016 primaries, when a Boston Court decision determined that the CEE had to automatically include in its registry the electors that did not vote on the past two elections.
García explained that the registration boards will be permanently open up to the day of the election event in order for those people, who are active in the registry, can obtain a copy of their voting card in case they have lost it.
Those electors who have not participated in the past general elections but have done son in the previous one will also be able to participate in the event.
Those who vote by telephone will be notified by the end of the week the telephone lines available for practicing their vote before June 11th.
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