Puerto Rico Presidential Election Cancelled
Friday, December 1, 2000
On October 13 2000, by a vote of 3 to 0, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment does not allow Puerto Rico any electoral votes.
The decision by the Appeals Court reverses a District Court decision to allocate 8 electoral votes to Puerto Rico (Igartua v USA, 00-2083).
Following the District Court ruling, the Puerto Rico legislature authorized a Presidential election. Ballot access was granted to political parties who submitted 4,000 signatures. Two candidates, Gore and Bush, met this requirement and were placed on the ballot.
The Democratic Party of Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit to cancel this election. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court voted 6 to 1 on November 2, 2000 to cancel the election on the grounds that is was a waste of taxpayer dollars (Galib v Comision Estatal de Elecciones, 2000-161).
Additional Details - December 4, 2000
On August 29, 2000 the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico issued an opinion declaring that "U.S. citizens resident in Puerto Rico have the right to vote in Presidential elections and that its electoral votes must be counted in Congress" and that "the Government of Puerto Rico has the obligation to organize the means by which the United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico will vote in the upcoming and subsequent Presidential elections and to provide for the appointment of Presidential electors". The Court ordered the Government of Puerto Rico "to act with all possible expediency to create such mechanism".
On September 10, 2000 the Legislature of Puerto Rico enacted Law No. 403 for the purpose of allowing the citizens of the United States of America domiciled in Puerto Rico to vote in the election for the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States, and to establish the procedures and mechanisms to effectuate said vote. The bill was signed into law on September 10, 2000 and became effective immediately.
The District Court ruling was reversed on October 13, 2000 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Court of Appeals concluded that "Puerto Rico, which is not a State, may not designate electors to the electoral college, and therefore that the residents of Puerto Rico have no constitutional right to participate in the national election of the President and Vice- President".
While the Appeals Court expressed no opinion with regard to the validity under Puerto Rican law of Law No. 403, it ordered the District Court to return the case to the Puerto Rican courts. On October 26, 2000, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ordered the Commonwealth Elections Commission to abstain from continuing organizing the presidential election process. The Commission complied with the order.
On November 2, 2000, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court struck down Law No. 403.
The Supreme Court concluded that the opinion issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals meant that the presidential vote had no "practical legitimate consequence whatsoever", and therefore met no public purpose. Since the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that public funds may only be disposed of for public purposes, the Court ruled that Law No. 403 - which sought to implement a right deemed "juridically inexistent" - was unconstitutional.
By the time the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ordered the Elections Commission to stop the presidential election process, the Commission had already spent well over half-a-million dollars out nine-hundred thousand dollars allocated by the government for the vote. In fact, the presidential ballots - along with the Commonwealth, legislative and municipal election ballots - were already printed, packed and sealed in boxes kept in a vault, to be subsequently transported under close security measures to the polling places. In addition, the Commission had already mailed absentee votes with the presidential ballot. Under orders from the Supreme Court, the presidential ballots were not handed to the voters on Election Day, and the Commission did not count any absentee or advance presidential ballots.
Had the presidential vote gone forward, the results would have been published on the Commission's Web site http://www.ceepur.net. Note, however, that the Island's two opposition parties, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) - which favors continued Commonwealth status for Puerto Rico - and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) were against the measure, and campaigned in favor of spoiling the presidential ballot. Only the ruling New Progressive Party (PNP) - which supports statehood for Puerto Rico - promoted it.
The New Progressive Party was decisively defeated by the Popular Democratic Party in the General Election, losing both the Governorship and the Island's non-voting seat in Congress, as well as the majorities they held in both houses of the Puerto Rico Legislature. The party also had a net loss of twenty-one municipalities, out of fifty-four they controlled prior to the vote.
Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, Webmaster
Commentary: Wednesday, September 13, 2000
The complete text of the U.S. Court of Appeals opinion is available on http://www.ElectionsPuertoRico.org.