Puerto Rico: ¿The [Next] Ultimate Swing State?

Name:
Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I'm a political science major and American history minor at the Ohio State University so anything political generally interests me. I'm 1/2 Puerto Rican and 1/4 German + Irish each. My extended family all live in Puerto Rico, my immediate family (mother and siblings) are the only ones living in the States.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Link-o-Rama

With the recount STILL suspended since November 23rd there isn't much to write about here. If you're interested in learning more about Puerto Rican current events, politics, or history then hit up some of these sites:

Where does Puerto Rico fit: http://capwiz.com/cef/issues/alert/?alertid=4

Recount halted: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/election2004/10249085.htm?1c

Candidates Speak Before Chamber of Commerce: www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2004/vol8n04/Media2-en.shtml

Puerto Rico’s Status Focus of Debate: www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/10/22/pr.governor.ap/

Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration: www.prfaa.com/eng/pressRelease.asp?id=1016

U.S. Politics Today: www.uspoliticstoday.com/news/AcevedoVila

Election History: www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0113949.html

Puerto Rico Again Weighs Statehood: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6389951/
Puerto Rico News: http://puerto-rico-news.newslib.com/2004103000/

Puerto Rico’s Governorship in Limbo: http://www.realcities.com/mld/realcities/news/politics/10132341.htm

Recount Ordered: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1254-2004Nov20.html

Let Puerto Rico Decide: http://letpuertoricodecide.org/index.shtml

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Change may be in order for Future Puerto Rican Elections

Info retrieved from: http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2004/vol8n49/Poll0849-en.shtml

The Puerto Rican voting system is under much discrepancy due to the recent mess the latest gubernatorial race has inflicted. The current voting system is conducted as described in an article from the Puerto Rico Herald:

“On November 2 nd , a Puerto Rican voter entering his/her polling place was presented with three ballots, one offering many candidates for municipal offices, another for many legislative candidates and a third, called a "state ballot," offering only those running for the offices of Governor and Resident Commissioner. On each of these ballots, the voter could have voted in one of three ways.

The first way is the straight party vote, or voto íntegro , by which he simply places one mark under the symbol of his party preference. By so doing, all candidates of that party receive his vote for every office on the ballot. The second voting option is the "mixed vote," or voto mixto , on which the voter places a mark under a party logo but also places a mark by the name of one or several candidates of competing parties. The third option is to vote for specific candidates regardless of their party affiliation. In this method, no mark is made under the logo of any political party.”

To me, this system leaves marginal room for error to be made. Since a good number of votes are mixed votes (voting for several candidates for Senate and other positions politically-affiliated under separate parties), those votes become unclear as to what the voter may really intend if they initially check a party-affiliated box at the top of the ballot also. These are the votes currently under discrepancy.

How, exactly, to simplify the voting process is yet to be addressed. One thing is definite after the 2004 gubernatorial race, though: despite who wins, an improved voting system will be something the Puerto Rican Supreme Court will serious look into.

Puerto Rico: the New Florida

Info from: http://www.letpuertoricodecide.com/blog/archives/000089.shtml

This article from the Wall Street Journal draws eerily similar comparisons between the Florida recount in 2000 and the current gubernatorial race underway in Puerto Rico. The difference being, as the article points out, Puerto Rico has a lot at more at stake this election. With tensions raised so high, no one is pleased with the court’s ruling to halt the recount. And as more time passes, more conspiracy theories arise concerning fraudulent ballots and purposeful miscount. Here’s the article in full:

All eyes may be on the stolen election in Ukraine (see above), but there's a potentially fraudulent one here at home that bears watching too. We refer to Puerto Rico, where the vote for governor is so close that it remains undecided one month after November 2.

There's a complex legal dispute in train, setting the pro-statehood party candidate vs. the candidate from the pro-commonwealth party and revolving around the status of up to 28,000 disputed ballots. The case has already reached the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, and before it's over the U.S. Supreme Court may have to weigh in. Meanwhile, a recount is under way.

If all this sounds a lot like Bush v. Gore and the 2000 Florida recount, that's because it is. And it's not just the palm trees in the background. The principle at stake is the same: Election laws ought to mean something; you can't change the rules after votes have been cast.

Puerto Rico's hanging chad is something called the "mixed ballot." The vast majority of the territory's two million voters select a slate of candidates by checking off the name of the party they prefer. If, however, they wish to vote for a candidate from another party for a particular office, they can "split" their vote by also checking off the name of that candidate. Just 1.5% of the electorate cast mixed ballots in 2000; 1.7% did so in 1996.

This year a new sort of mixed ballot turned up that raises several suspicions. On the ballot for governor and Puerto Rico's non-voting delegate in Washington, some voters purportedly checked three boxes: one for the Independence Party (which has a tiny following) and two for the candidates from the pro-commonwealth party. This makes no sense, as it effectively cancels out the voters' party vote and makes it impossible to determine their true intent.

The statehood-party candidate, Pedro Rossello, wants these mixed ballots declared invalid, which would likely hand him the margin of victory. The commonwealth-party candidate, Anibal Acevedo Vila, wants them counted, which would put him over the top.

There's another problem with the triple-X ballots. Puerto Rico's voters mark their ballots with pencils they are handed as they enter the voting booth. But some of the mixed ballots contain both pencilled X's next to the Independence Party and X's marked in ink next to the names of the commonwealth party candidates, suggesting that the inked X's were fraudulently added later. Election workers report that the triple-X ballots didn't begin to show up until late on election night, as it became clear that Mr. Rossello was winning. Mr. Rossello was ahead in the exit polls and his party swept the legislative and municipal elections and also won the race for representative in Washington.

There is another parallel with Florida 2000 -- an activist state Supreme Court, which first grabbed the case from a lower court and then ordered that the mixed ballots be counted. The rule, however, is that federal courts decide who has jurisdiction in these cases, and a federal judge has ordered that the triple-X ballots be set aside until he can determine whether they are valid.

We don't know who's the winner here -- preliminary results show Mr. Acevedo Vilar ahead by a hair -- but it seems obvious that the triple-X ballots deserve to be discarded as confusing and possibly fraudulent. Then do a recount and declare a victor -- before January 2, the date the current governor's term ends. If not, there's a nasty political crisis in the offing that could be worse than Florida.

U.S. Congress' Intervention: Trial and Error ?

Info retrieved from: http://www.letpuertoricodecide.com/blog/archives/000090.shtml

An article in the Puerto Rico Herald discusses the possible zealous overreacting Democratic candidate Vila has had in response to the U.S. Congress’ decision in suspending the recount until they can further investigate whether or not the mixed votes are fraudulent. Here’s the article its entirety:

To The Puerto Rico Herald

Where Is Puerto Rico Headed?

By Dr. William Quintana Ruiz
Las Cruces, NM

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved.

To The Puerto Rico Herald:

11/27/04

A question that has not been asked during all this process of counting, recounting and adjudication of votes of the past general election in Puerto Rico is: where is Puerto Rico headed?

This is a very relevant question, given the rumblings of separatism that we are seeing from leaders of the Popular Democratic Party. I find it fascinating that a former military man like Hector Luis Acevedo is making pronouncements to the effect of disobeying the U. S. District Court provisional ruling in the so called "mixed votes" controversy. Furthermore, the current Resident Commissioner, Anibal Acevedo Vila, a federal employee, is also echoing that call.

Is victory in the 2004 election so important as to jeopardize the relationship that Puerto Rico has with the United States? Apparently it is.

Mind you, I want to see this relationship disappear and for Puerto Rico to become a state of the Union, but the way in which this process is developing, might lead to consequences that even the people that voted for Acevedo Vila will not approve.

The vast majority of the "Populares" are in favor of a close relationship between Puerto Rico and the U. S., the so called "bilateral pact". What they are not in favor of is to move Puerto Rico farther away from the U. S., which is exactly what the current leaders of the PDP are doing when they call for their poll workers to disobey a legal order given by Judge Dominguez.

The so-called four pillars of the Commonwealth, "Common Market, Common Defense, Common Citizenship, and Common Currency" are coming down one by one.

Common Market came down with the approval of NAFTA: Puerto Rico no longer enjoys exclusive rights to import and export products from the U. S. With increasing globalization, many countries in the world are taking advantage of a situation that for a long time only Puerto Rico enjoyed.

Common Defense is dead with the withdrawal of the U. S. Navy from Vieques and the closing of Roosevelt Roads. Surely other military bases in the Island will also close in the near future.

So the current status is balanced on the remaining two pillars.

The actions of the PDP in challenging the authority of the U. S. District Court in Puerto Rico undermine the Common Citizenship pillar of the Commonwealth.

Citizens must obey the courts of the country to which they belong. It might not be a pleasant experience, but in a society of law and order is it essential that the citizens follow the orders of the court. As an integral part of the United States, the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico is under the rule of law of the United States, which the U. S. District Court represents.

I find it mind-boggling that the current leadership of the PDP, which includes individuals who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States (including the current Resident Commissioner and many others) are on record stating that the PDP is for a permanent union with the United States but are so brash as to call for disobedience of an order from a federal judge. This action is not one that can be reconciled with their belief that Puerto Rico is part of the United States.

The federal judges in Puerto Rico are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate of the United States. Their backgrounds have been checked and double checked and they are individuals who have passed the muster of the confirmation process. They are cognizant of federal laws and their decisions are based on them, not personal preference.

Judge Dominguez has been very forthcoming in stating that he will analyze in depth all the evidence in front of him and come to whatever decision is legally warranted in this case. Nobody knows what that decision is going to be; I am sure that he does not even know it himself.

By undercutting the authority of this judge, for the aim of securing the governorship of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vila has betrayed all the democratic principles that he says he defends.

In a democracy, unlike any other form of government, the courts are equal partners in the government. They serve as the arbiters in a dispute, such as the one that Puerto Rico is confronting right now. Given the new landscape created after the Bush v. Gore case during the 2000 Presidential Election, the NPP is within its rights as a political party to ask the federal court to interpret the votes in dispute during the Puerto Rican 2004 General Election. It owes the close-to- 950,000 voters that cast their valid votes for its candidate that much.

In a democracy, one vote cannot weigh more than other. They must have the same weight, they must reveal a clear intent on the part of the voter and when that weight and intent cannot be easily determined by the legal structures appointed to perform that task, and political parties do have the right to invoke protection from the courts.

The PDP is banking on the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to rubber stamp a decision that will give them victory. The NPP is looking for justice in the only forum that is known to be unbiased in Puerto Rico.

Trying to undermine the credibility of the federal courts in Puerto Rico, with smoke screens of lack of jurisdiction, calling the integrity of a federal judge into question is an assault to democracy.

Is the PDP really that blind? Apparently so!

They do not realize that with their stance, they are helping the cause of separatism in Puerto Rico and the independence of Puerto Rico might be decided in the halls of Congress and not by the voters of Puerto Rico, which election after election have rejected it by wide margins.

So where Puerto Rico is headed might not be the place that the supporters of the PDP want to go, but surely and truly, its leadership is taking them there.

By Dr. William Quintana Ruiz
Las Cruces, NM

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, in his capacity as Resident Commissioner, continues to be a sitting member of a U.S. Congress that makes the laws that Judge Dominguez is now interpreting and, as a licensed lawyer, Mr. Acevedo is an officer of the same court that he is now disparaging.

It’s quite apparent to me that Vila worries about the matter being in the hands of the U.S. Congress because of heavily Republican the appointed judges and representatives are. Whether or not the Congress’ party affiliation will have an effect on their decision to count the mixed ballots is yet to be determined. Political analysts call for it to benefit pro-statehood candidate Rossello, which could possibly win him the election.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Just to Clear Up any Confusion

I ran into this site called "An Introduction to Puerto Rico's Status Debate" which outlines some basic things people should know concerning this issue. The site is http://www.cefus.net/background/index.html

Do Puerto Ricans pay taxes?
People in Puerto Rico who aren't federal employees do not pay federal income taxes. They do pay all other types of federal taxes in addition to local taxes (some as high as 40%).

Where do Republicans and Democrats stand on the island's self-determination?
Both parties claim they believe Puerto Rico has the right to exercise its own decolonization. The following are quotes from both party platform representatives:
Republican:
“We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent status with the government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.”
Democrat:
“Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. These disenfranchised citizens – who have contributed greatly to our country in war and peace – are entitled to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. Democrats will continue to work in the White House and Congress to clarify the options and enable them to chose and to obtain such a status from among all realistic options.”

This site raises other questions as well but I thought these were the most important ones concerning this blog.

Stay tuned, you never know when this race will take another dramatic turn.

Puerto Ricans "Endless Hangover" of an Election Continues

Info from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/30/opinion/30montero.html?oref=login&oref=login

So the recount's still suspended until American courts can decide whether or not to count the split ballots. Supposedly, though, Puerto Rican newspapers have been printing articles Pedro Rosello (the pro-statehood candidate) a comfortable lead. That is not the case according to the polls ... it's still a deadlock as ever.

So far the Puerto Rican Supreme Court has ruled the split votes valid, but a federal court has ruled against them. This raises many questions as to Puerto Rico's judicial powers in addition to its peculiar relationship to the United States.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the winning candidate better be brace themself for half the sland to hate them...and all the island to be politically-fatigued.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"what colonialism is all about"

Info from http://archives.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/10/24/puerto.rico.vote/index.html

I was surfing the net and found this old CNN article from the 2000 Presidential elections. Supposedly a group of Puerto Ricans sued for the right to vote for President in that race. A federal judge ruled in their favor and Puerto Rican ballots were even printed with the names of Gore and Bush on the ballots until an appellate court in Boston ruled that only states have the right to vote for President. This supremely angers such Puerto Ricans as Jose Lausel who served in the armed forces but isn't allowed to vote for President because he chooses to live on the island instead of the mainland. By birth, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. The only deciding factor on whether or not a Puerto Rican is permitted to vote for President is where they choose to list their permanent residence as. Puerto Rican political analyst Juan Maneul Garcia Passalaqua says "...it's [just] another measure of the frustration of Puerto Ricans that are not permitted to participate in the government that runs this country. That is what colonialism is all about."

A Puerto Rican Explosion !

Info retrieved from http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-a1_5prstatenov22,0,1325784.story?coll=all-newslocal-hed

The number of Puerto Ricans on the mainland United States has exceeded the population on the island itself. So what's this mean you ask? Well, the large populations in New York, Boston, and Washington DC offer Puerto Ricans a "locational advantage" to America's major economic and political power affiliated cities (not to mention having a significant impact on voting campaigns in those areas geared toward minorities). Also, governor Sila Calderon has declared it legal for Puerto Ricans on the mainland to vote in the governor's race. This year, 300,000 Puerto Ricans living in the States registered to vote. As a majority, Puerto Ricans on the mainland wish for the island to become and state and are therefore expected to vote for pro-statehood candidate Rosello.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

BREAKING NEWS

Yesterday, the Puerto Rican Elections Commission has officially suspended the race until Monday the 29th. Their hopes that are by then the U.S. District Court can make a decision for the island on whether or not to count the 28,000 legitematly disputed ballots.

Republican candidate Rossello says the ballots should be thrown out because they are "spoiled". The tickets are what's called "mixed" tickets because, "...the voter marked the symbol for the independence party, and then went on to check boxes along side the names of Acevedo Vila and Roberto Prats, who lost his race to become the island's non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress." The tickets are presumed to be in favor of Democratic candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, and could ultimately be the deciding factor in the race.

Anibal Acevedo Vila argues for the ballots to be counted because mixed ballots have been counted in past elections. The Puerto Rican Supreme Court ruled soon after November 2nd for the ballots to be valid and recounted immediately. Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Dominguez overruled Puerto Rico's Supreme Court decision stating not to count the votes until he is able to fully review whether or not they are valid.

With emotions already running at an all time high, riots have been forming around government buildings in downtown San Juan both in favor of statehood and against it.

Check out the full report at http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/election2004/10249085.htm?1c. I'll keep you updated as more information comes in.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Latest Voting Recount Numbers

So 31.3% of votes have been recounted thus far. Here are where each candidate stands:

Pro-statehood (Republican) candidate Pedro Rossello - 287,833

Pro-commonwealth (Democratic) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila - 282,589

The Importance of Every Vote

Since this election is so ridiculously close, I thought this would be appopriate:

1645 - ONE vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England.
1776 - ONE vote gave America the English language instead of German.
1868 - ONE vote saved President Andrew Jackson from impeachment.
1875 - ONE vote changed France from a Monarchy to a Republic.
1876 - ONE vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the Presidency of the United States.
1923 - ONE vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.
1941 - ONE vote saved the Selective Service (just weeks before Pearl Harbour was attacked).
1990 - ONE vote decided a State House race in Oakland County, Michigan.

Just some food for though.

Information retrieved from http://www.usfca.edu/fac-staff/hancock/pol204/history.htm

A Brief Rundown

If you haven't heard already, then don't worry - you aren't the only one.

On November 2nd, 2004, while Americans took to the polls to vote for the next leader of the free world, Puerto Ricans also casted their ballots on who their next governor of the island will be. Like their American counterpart, elections ran tight - extremely tight. The pro-statehood (Republican) candidate Pedro Rossello lost by a margin of less than .5 percentage points to pro-commonwealth (Democratic) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila. The United States District Court as well as the Puerto Rican Supreme Court ruled an immediate recount take place. The recount is still under way.

So what the hell does all this mean? Well, you must first understand Puerto Rico's small voting history. They were proclaimed an American commonwealth in 1952 and, in the same year, held elections for governor. The parties were broken down into Democratic and Republican respectively, with the Democratic candidate proclaimed as the pro-commonwealth one and the Republican an advocate for statehood. They vote every four years for governor, on the same day Americans vote for President. Since that first election, the Democratic party has overwhelmingly won every election with the exception of two - once in the 60s and once in the 90s. Both pro-statehood governors went to Washington in hopes to change the status of the island from a commonwealth to a full-fledged state. With Democrats in office both times, the governor's legislative efforts failed. Lately, Republicans in both Congress and the House of Representatives have expressed their plans on changing Puerto Rico from a commonwealth to a state if governor Rossello were to be elected and raise the question to the House and Congress. Pedro Rossello, though the votes still are not in, already has a proposal written up.

If Pedro Rossello were to become the new governor of Puerto Rico, there are good chances the island becomes the 51st state. My blog intends to cover the this election that is so important to Puerto Rico yet seemingly so insignificant to Americans.