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Puerto Rico Primary Disaster Frustrates Voters, Candidates

If there is one area of agreement among all candidates involved in Puerto Rico’s primary election held on Sunday, it is that the day was beset by problems.  The Fiscal Oversight and Management Board described the situation as “dysfunctional” and “unacceptable.” Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced, running for reelection as governor, called the situation “a disaster.” Her opponent said it was “an embarrassment.” Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González used the word “fiasco.”

Officials and voters alike are angry. The ACLU is suing the Election Commission.

The primary contest pitted Gov. Wanda Vazquez against former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi for the New Progressive Party and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, Isabela Mayor Charlie Delgado, and Sen. Eduardo Bhatia for the Popular Democratic Party. All these candidates are running for Governor of Puerto Rico in November.

What went wrong?

Voters in protective masks waited for hours to vote at some polling stations and then were turned away because there were no ballots available.

Trucks full of ballots were, according to Thomas Rivera Schatz, president of the New Progressive Party, parked at the Election Commission’s headquarters. He and the president of the Popular Democratic Party called for the ballots to be delivered, and for voters to go to the voting centers to wait for their arrival.

When ballots failed to arrive at some polling places by early afternoon, the primary was suspended. Voting continued at polling stations that already had ballots, but the Election Commission officially suspended the primary at the places which had not received ballots. These locations, Election Commission president Juan Dávila Rivera said in a press release, would not be able to stay open long enough to allow a full day of voting.


The presidents of both the major political parties in Puerto Rico are calling for another primary election on August 16th. The governor supports this idea. The votes from Sunday would still be counted under this plan, with the intention of allowing anyone who didn’t vote on the 9th to vote on the 16th.

Other leaders are asking to have results from Sunday scrapped and start over entirely on the 16th. Pierluisi filed a lawsuit Sunday night asking that the votes already cast should be counted. The ACLU filed a suit against the suspension of the vote. Charlie Delgado called on the governor to issue an executive order continuing the election through August 11th.

Edgardo Román, president of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, has said that the law is not clear on what options might be legally viable.


Blame is generally focused on the Elections Commission. Juan Ernesto Dávila has announced that he will resign once the primaries are over, but otherwise election commissioners for the major political parties and the elections commission have not made public statements.

Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos has scheduled hearings in the coming days to sort out the situation and make a plan going forward.

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