|December 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Quo Vadis PIP?
One way to understand the current crisis in Puerto Ricos on-going election process is to analyze the peculiar position of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) and the voters that it influenced on Election Day 2004.
It is obvious that a significant number of PIP members were encouraged to vote "pivazo," that is for their Party but not for all of their partys candidates. Further, they were urged to vote for candidates of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), in order to stop the resurgent New Progressive Party (NPP) and its Statehood ambitions.
This action was possible by using the "state ballot," the one on which candidates for each office are displayed under the logo and color of their party. Instructions on the ballot explain that a person can automatically vote for both candidates of a given party by simply placing an "X" mark under the logo of that party. This is referred to as a "voto íntegro."
This ballot also provides for a mixed vote or "voto mixto." The voter has the option to mark "X" under the party logo but also to make a mark (una marca) for a candidate from another party. By placing an ""X" under the party logo only, the ballot would count for both candidates of that party. By placing the "X" under both the party logo and the name of one candidate from a competing party, the vote would be split between the specific candidate marked and the party candidate for the office not specifically marked.
The pivazos under judicial review are those on which the voter has made three marks, one under the party logo and the two others for each candidate of an opposing party, effectively nullifying one of the choices and raising the question of the voters real intent. These three-marked ballots have become the center of controversy in the recount of the November 2nd voting. Estimates are that there are up to 10,000 of these ballots, now being set aside to await the decision of a federal judge as to their legitimacy.
Perhaps the PIP greybeards, aware that their candidates had no chance to win any important office, envisioned a result that would narrowly qualify them to remain as an official party, by polling at least 3% of the vote, but by stopping NPP candidates Pedro Rosselló and Luis Fortuño throw the election to Acevedo Vila and Roberto Pratts, thereby giving PIP representatives huge leverage in a Fortaleza controlled by the PDP and a permanent pass to the office of the Resident Commissioner in Washington.
In this strategy, we see an application of the law of unintended consequences.
The PIP failed to qualify as an official party by polling only 2.67% of the vote and the pivazos have created a situation wherein the U.S. Federal Courts very likely will decide who will be Puerto Ricos next Governor. If the courts allow the counting of pivazos, PDP candidate Acevedo Vilá will win. If they throw out ballots with triple markings, NPP candidate Pedro Rosselló almost surely will be sworn in as Governor.
Effectively, the Independence Party of Puerto Rico has forced three judges in Boston, Massachusetts to decide who will be the chief executive officer of the island for the next four years or maybe it will ultimately rest with nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. This must be the ultimate horror for Puerto Rican separatists.
Those who doubt that PIP operatives orchestrated this debacle need to study the actions of the party after the recount began and when the pivazos began to be called into question by NPP activists. Where were the PIP spokespersons insisting that the pivazos needed to count for their party and its candidates? Why are not PIP attorneys arguing before Federal Judge Dominguez in San Juan or before the appellate judges in Boston that the pivazo vote should count for them? Why was it PIP activists who filed a suit in the Puerto Rican Courts, saying that they were "pivazo voters" and that their votes should count for the PDP? Finally, why are they lobbying for the matter to return to the Puerto Rican courts where it is certain that the pivazos will count for the PDP and not their own party?
Some newspaper accounts characterize PIP activists as frowning victims already beginning the process to reestablish themselves as an official party by collecting 100,000 signatures of assent from registered voters. Others see behind this feigned grimace the satisfied grin of the proverbial "cat that swallowed the canary." Grateful PDP voters will likely provide the PIP all of the signatures needed to re-qualify as an official party and continue the roughly 11 million dollar flow of government funds to their party coffers. As long as the PIP uses taxpayers funds to campaign for another Puerto Rican political party, there exists an implicit conflict of interests.
No one should dispute the time-honored tradition of the "protest vote" or the validity of the "cross-over vote" as a legitimate expression of voter distain for candidates of their own party or dissatisfaction with major candidates of others. The situation with the PIP and its excessively flexible voters is a bit different. The party has been gaming the Puerto Rican electoral system since its support among the general populace has dwindled to less than 5%.
This relates to the phenomenon of the "watermelon vote." In every modern election in Puerto Rico it has been shown that some voters who wear the watermelon-rind -green colors of the PIP, vote the watermelon-fruit-red colors of the PDP. So long as the "watermelon voters" were relatively few, the official status of the Party was not in jeopardy. This years close vote combined with the large number of "pivazos" could spell the end of the Puerto Rico Independence Party. In a way, the PIP orchestrated its own execution. Now it is trying to resuscitate its existence as an official political party in Puerto Rico.
What do you think? Should the PIP continue to exist as an official party?