Puerto Rico was forced to partially suspend voting for primary elections hampered by missing ballot papers on Sunday when officials asked the President of the US Territory Election Commission to resign.
Primaries for polling stations that did not receive ballots by early afternoon are expected to be postponed while voting continues elsewhere, the commission said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this on American soil like here in Puerto Rico. It is an embarrassment for our government and our people, ”said Pedro Pierluisi, who is running against Governor Wanda Vázquez to become the nominee for the Pro Progressive New Progressive Party.
An incredulous sweetheart noticed that trucks with voting slips were still parked at the Commission headquarters when they spoke.
“The question is, why didn’t they leave?” he said.
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Hundreds of frustrated voters wearing the required face masks and resisting a spike in COVID-19 cases were turned away from centers across Puerto Rico when officials told them there were no ballots available.
The situation enraged voters and politicians of all kinds when they accused the Puerto Rico Electoral Commission and demanded an explanation for ballot papers that only reached a handful of polling stations by the afternoon.
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“This is outraged, abusive and an attempt against democracy in our country,” said Marcos Cruz, mayor of the northern city of Vega Baja, who was awaiting the vote.
Meanwhile, officials from the island’s two main parties sought solutions when they urged voters to still show up at open centers.
Yadira Pizarro, a 44-year-old teacher, ran out of patience at a polling station in Carolina where she had waited more than four hours under the bright sun.
“I can’t believe it. This is serious negligence,” she said.
One of the most closely watched races on Sunday is that of the Pro-Statehood Progressive New Party, which features two candidates who acted as substitute governors after the political turmoil last year. Vázquez meets Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in Congress from 2009 to 2017. Pierluisi was governor for a short time after Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned in August 2019 after protests on the street over profanity chats and government corruption. However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that then Minister of Justice Vázquez was constitutionally next because there was no Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, which supports Puerto Rico’s current political status as US territory, is holding a primary election for the first time in its 82-year history. Three people are vying to become governor – Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, known for her public talks with US President Donald Trump after the devastation of Hurricane Maria; Eduardo Bhatia, Senator from Puerto Rico; and Carlos Delgado, Mayor of the northwest coastal town of Isabela.
The victorious candidates from both parties will be among six candidates for governor in the general election in November.