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Puerto Rico's Supreme Court agrees to hear lawsuits on suspended election

Bianca PadrĂ³ Ocasio and Syra Ortiz-Blanes, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Amid an unprecedented electoral debacle, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico said Monday it will evaluate claims filed by two candidates from opposing political parties who are calling for all the votes cast at Sunday's suspended primary election to be counted immediately.

The parties involved have until 2 p.m. Tuesday to file their positions to the island's high court.

The joint lawsuits from the two gubernatorial candidates seek to challenge an emergency order from the elections commission of Puerto Rico (Comision Estatal de Elecciones, in Spanish) to keep ballot boxes sealed and voting machines shut down until next Sunday.

The primary was suspended on Sunday afternoon, after what elections commission president Juan Ernesto Davila said was a massive delay in printing ballots at the only ballot-printing facility on the island. The delay meant voters in approximately more than half of the precincts on the island couldn't vote and will have to cast their ballot next Sunday.

However, many politicians and private citizens have since blamed the elections commission for the failures of Sunday's botched primary. Many Puerto Ricans were outraged after arriving at their voting sites, some waiting outside for hours, only to be told they'd be unable to cast their votes. Public poll officers were forced to close down.

Gov. Wanda Vazquez said preparing and delivering the voting materials was the "absolute responsibility" of the elections commission and called for the resignation of Davila.

 

And even with the emergency order, which was agreed on by the two main parties on the island, dozens of alleged leaked results in the gubernatorial and legislative races began to make the rounds on social media since Sunday afternoon -- a concern the island's highest court said it is seeking to address as soon as possible.

On Sunday night Pedro Pierluisi, the candidate for governor for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, filed a lawsuit against the elections commission as well as the electoral commissioners of the political parties running the elections, claiming the mid-afternoon suspension was "disastrous" and "illegal."

Puerto Rican Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, who is running for governor for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), the NPP's main opposition, has also sued for an immediate vote count.

Meanwhile, at least a dozen trucks filled with cast ballots and voting materials are currently sitting in San Juan, awaiting instructions.

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