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Coup d’etat


November 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

By hook or by crook, Anibal Acevedo Vila wants to be governor of Puerto Rico. During the campaign, he promoted a vote for himself, crossing party lines, that confused many voters, who ended up casting three (3) votes in a ballot where only two candidates were up for election. Obviously, such a ballot is null and void, because it is impossible to determine the voter’s intentions. The law doesn’t allow three different votes for two candidates. To validate such a vote would undermine the faith and trust in our electoral process and would create confusion as to the results.

Not only is it unreasonable and illogical to vote in three different slots for only two candidates, but it also is outright fraudulent to validate such a vote. Even the instructions on the statewide ballot instruct the voter that if he wishes to vote mixto, he must make an X under the party’s insignia and then vote for one (1) candidate–either for the governor or for the resident commissioner. Nowhere does it say to make one X under a party insignia and then two beside the two candidates of another party.

Unfortunately, Acevedo Vila and the Popular Democratic Party have already obtained, by hook or by crook, the support of the president of the State Elections Commission, a die-hard Popular himself. In every important decision after the election, Aurelio Gracia has sided with the Popular Democratic Party and Acevedo Vila’s contentions–including the absurd and contrary-to-law decision to amend the rules, which had been unanimously approved and supported by the president of the State Elections Commission.

During the night of the elections, the spokesman for Acevedo Vila and the Popular Democratic Party were concerned about tally sheets that weren’t being signed by the New Progressive Party representatives. In retrospect, we can see what they were concerned about. Obviously, they already knew about the three votes for two candidates and were afraid the fraud would become public before all tally sheets had been turned in.

This is also the reason Acevedo Vila has fiercely opposed conducting the recount of every ballot and the revision of the tally sheets at the same time. Their strategy appears to be based on the hope of obtaining more votes for Acevedo Vila than for Pedro Rossello after the verification of the tally sheets is finished, before a recount is made ballot by ballot. They are delaying the tally-sheet verification process so they can claim victory as soon as the tally-sheet verification process is concluded. They know the law stipulates a full recount of all votes if the difference between the two candidates with the largest number of votes is less than 0.5%.

However, they are planning to have the result of the tally-sheet verification as late as possible in December, so they can then claim it is a waste of time to have a recount. They are planning to be able to sway public opinion to their side and claim final victory as a fait accompli. At that moment, they will allege that there is no time for a recount before Jan. 2, that the people have already suffered too much suspense and indecision, and that it would be unfair to delay the obvious result any longer. It is a callous and monstrous strategy that purports to take away the people’s power to decide an election.

Their method has been to change the rules of the game after the fact, in order to make them favorable to them and to allow them to get away with stealing the elections. Acevedo Vila and his followers in the Popular Democratic Party are acting with the knowledge that the majority in the local Supreme Court has supported them in such strategies in the past and most probably would support them now. Let us not forget the chief judge of the Supreme Court was Rafael Hernandez Colon’s campaign manager, and he was pushed into the top post in the Supreme Court by Hernandez Colon just a few months ago.

Acevedo Vila has adamantly opposed recounting all ballots at the same time all tally sheets are being verified. The president of the State Elections Commission has acknowledged publicly that it would be more efficient, more accurate, and faster to do both at the same time, as was unanimously agreed to by all three commissioners of the parties and by the president himself. This sensible, fair, and practical agreement was enacted into a rule of the electoral process and duly notified to the governor, the Legislature, and the public, as prescribed by law.

The law further provides that any rule or regulation agreed to unanimously by all parties can’t be amended or revoked, except by unanimous consent of all the commissioners and the president of the State Elections Commission. However, the president of the commission, a former Superior Court judge, decided to violate the law by not allowing the verification of the tally sheets with a simultaneous recount. He claims he is following the law, but what about his violation of the law that doesn’t allow him to change the rule once agreed to, unless by unanimous consent.

Not only is the law on our side; equity and justice are also on our side. It is an age-old principle that it is unfair, unjust, and immoral to change the rules once the game has started. That is precisely what Acevedo Vila asked the president to do, and that is precisely what the president did. Gracia has disgraced himself and is disgracing our electoral process, which up to now had been one of the most respected throughout the world.

Now, the issue of the three votes for two candidates appears to determine the outcome of the elections. The issue is whether three X marks or votes on a ballot where only two candidates are up for election is valid. The definition of mixed vote doesn’t take into consideration the unreasonable and absurd notion that you can vote for two candidates by making three Xs. That is so absurd the lawmakers didn’t deem it necessary to say it was illegal.

However, the instructions to the voters, as approved by unanimous consent of all three commissioners and the president, are clear on what a mixed vote (voto mixto) should be. The ballot instructions say how to vote mixed (votar mixto). "To vote mixed, you make an X under the insignia of the party of your preference and then another X next to another candidate under a column different from that of your party.... Keep in mind that you can only vote for one (1) candidate for governor and one (1) candidate for resident commissioner." (My translation.) In other words, the instructions to the voters are that if they vote under the insignia of a party, they can then vote only for a governor or resident commissioner of another party, not for both.

Any other interpretation is completely erroneous and unreasonable. The rules are clear, and here again Acevedo Vila and his party, together with the president of the State Elections Commission, are changing the rules in order to change the results of the elections. All statewide ballots for governor and resident commissioner that have more than two Xs (or votes) are definitely null and void.

The big problem, however, is whether the federal court has jurisdiction in this issue. We feel confident it has, and it should have, because one of the most basic rights in our democracy is in question. The very foundations of democracy are being threatened by the trampling and denial of citizens’ right to freedom of speech, as expressed by voting, through trickery and immoral, inequitable decisions. Our trust and faith in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico has been eroded because of its constant partisan-political decisions, which have consistently favored the Popular Democratic Party ever since Hernandez Colon was first elected governor and managed to appoint several very partisan-oriented judges.

If, as is estimated by several experts, there are more than fifteen thousand (15,000) ballots where voters marked three (3) Xs to elect two (2) candidates, Rossello is definitely the next governor, because those ballots are null and void. Only through cheating and fraud can Acevedo Vila win.

Carlos Romero Barcelo is a two-term former governor of Puerto Rico (1977-84), a two-term former resident commissioner (1993-2000), and a two-term former mayor of San Juan (1969-78). He was president of the New Progressive Party for 11 years.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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