The fundamental right to vote, protected by the constitutions of Puerto Rico and the United States as a bastion of our democracy, has been severely violated.
The turbulent primary process was partially suspended by States Elections Commission (SEC) Juan Ernesto Dávila in an act of gross negligence and enormous incapacity.
This derision of the exercise and reputation of our vote is endorsed by the presidents of the parties participating in the primary elections. Neither the SEC president nor the president of the communities consulted the contenders, at least not governor race candidates. Not even New Progressive Party (PNP) vice president, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, was asked before making such a dangerous decision.
This terrible blow to the citizen vote is outrageous. The process should have continued until counting the last vote that day. At best, it should have been postponed until today, Monday, but not until next Sunday. Postponing the vote for a week, in clear violation of the Constitution and the laws of Puerto Rico, as determined by the electoral body's authorities, will only deepen general distrust of the results.
We are witnessing one of the most painful moments in the history of Puerto Rico. Bad politics, which destroys democracies, took a toll on one of the few institutions still standing in Puerto Rico.
This sad spectacle has been played out by figures who, this way, complete their terrible and mean chain of actions. Without hesitation or scruples, they have privileged their interests to betray the people, the same people, and the honest officials who yesterday overcame the fear of the terrible pandemic to fulfill the indeclinable duty of protecting the Puerto Rican democracy.
The assault on the process violates the fundamental right of the voters to freely choose their candidates. The people's vote must not be hijacked.
According to our legal system, decisions must be equally taken for all candidates. PNP candidate for governor Pedro Pierluisi demanded to continue votes counting without pause. His call has legitimate grounds and must be accepted with diligence to guarantee the transparency of the counting process.
One of the main responsible for this administrative, logistics and institutional disaster of which thousands of voters have been victims during the New Progressive and Popular Democratic parties primary elections is Senate, president Thomas Rivera Schatz, a promoter of a deficient electoral law which is not consistent with the transparency of the vote.
As the leader of a community that must respond to the interests of New Progressive members, Rivera Schatz must put the electoral process over his political alliances. It is no secret that the selection of the next candidate for governor leaves him out of the PNP presidency.
The early voting process anticipated the irregularities that both the SEC president and the PNP and PDP commissioners minimized. The inadmissible excuse of problems with printing the materials does not justify the underlying problem of the electoral system.
This disaster, which has become news abroad, is largely the result of the new electoral law has placed in the hands of a president decisions that have been unilateral, ill-advised, and incompetent.
Focusing all administrative power on the SEC president and the ruling party led to firing officials with electoral experience who would have helped prevent yesterday's collapse.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced cannot avoid her responsibility for the chaos Puerto Rico has experienced. Turning her back on her commitment, the governor signed a statute that was expected to be disastrous since it ignored the political consensus that has been the pillar of our electoral system.
To compensate for this error of judgment, Vázquez Garced bears a double responsibility. As a candidate for governor elected by the people, she must help legitimize the results by ensuring that all voters vote quickly and safely. As governor, she must call on the presidents of the parties, jurists, and impartial bodies, to embark on a thorough process of analysis and agreement that will lead to a fair reform of the electoral system that will dispel doubts about November elections.
It is a small act of reparation to an institution that was our pride and international example for its transparency, commitment, and reliability. Not doing so will perpetuate this shameful chapter in Puerto Rico’s history and trample on the right of those people who, challenging the fear of the pandemic and the suffocating summer heat, went out to exercise their right to vote.