Danica Coto / AP
Unsurpassed by the coronavirus pandemic, voters in Puerto Rico drew face masks on Sunday and went to the polls to vote in a careful gubernatorial primary election.
There was only one problem: for many voters, there were no votes.
By early afternoon on the day of the primary, only a handful of polling stations had received their paper votes, NPR’s Joel Rose reported on Sunday.
Voters and politicians were both outraged, Rose said. One candidate called the situation “embarrassing.”
The primary election had already been delayed once, moved from June 7 to August 9 due to the pandemic. Now the lack of votes means that a few Districts – the places that did not have votes available to start voting at 1.45pm on Sunday – will be open for voting again next Sunday.
The unique situation creates a legal gray area, Edgardo Román, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association, told the Associated Press. What happens to people who showed up at a polling station without ballot boxes and went home and were never told that their district had eventually opened? It is a scenario that the law never foresaw, he told the wire service.
Román told the Associated Press that this was the worst “election experience in Puerto Rico history.”
It is not clear why the ballot boxes were not delivered on time. Political party representatives blamed the island’s election commission. The head of the election commission pointed his finger at a printing plant, according to the Miami Herald.
At the same time, the Puerto Rico Financial Supervision and Management Board issued a statement on Sunday night saying it had fully funded the election commission and a lack of money could not be blamed.
“The State Election Commission has enough money and It has more than enough staff to carry out the one task it is charged with, “the Supervisory Board said in its statement, calling the voting debate” unacceptable “and the result of” inefficient organization. “
It is the latest example of chaos in US elections during the summer premieres as the pandemic has created a new headache for election officials. Concerns about the virus have led some election workers to stay at home, while those who remain face rescheduled elections, new ad hoc social distance policies and, in some cases, the project to massively increase their post-in voting system. (In Puerto Rico, as in a handful of states, the right to vote is still offered to people with an excuse as to why they cannot vote in person, why voters there had no choice but to go to the polls in person.)
At the same time, when election officials are struggling with the challenges of avoiding the transmission of diseases on polling day and maintain the security of the election, President Trump has made erroneous and unsupported objections to postal voting, pointing to the prospect of delaying the US presidential election, which he has no authority to do.