Since September 21, less than 45 days before the general elections, the Supreme court has issued four determinations related to the procedures of the State Elections Commission (CEE), deciding on each occasion in favor of the positions of the organism and the New Progressive Party (PNP).
The most recent of these opinions was issued on Wednesday night, when the highest judicial forum in the country upheld the resolution of the president of the EEC, Francisco Rosado Colomer, which allows voters to be notified that they voted early by mail and have failed to provide valid identification.
Contrary to the proposals of the minority parties, which argued that the Electoral Code clearly established that the votes of envelopes that did not contain identification would not be counted, the Supreme Court validated that these voters could correct the error within the three days following the notification.
Like the three previous determinations in the period examined, the result in the Alto Foro in this case was 6-3. Associate judges Luis Estrella Martinez, Erick Kolthoff Caraballo, Mildred Pabón Charneco, Rafael Martinez Torres, Roberto Feliberti Cintron Y Edgardo Rivera Garcia -All appointed by the former New Progressive Governor Luis Fortuño– made up the majority in all four decisions.
Lua Presiding Judge Maite Oronoz Rodríguez, as well as the associates Anabelle Rodríguez Rodríguezy Angel Colon Perez –All appointed under popular administrations–, have disagreed with each of the opinions of the court.
Here, we review the four EEC disputes that have been decided in the Supreme Court in the past month and a half.
A dozen legislators and candidates from the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) They presented two separate appeals seeking that the courts paralyze the printing of the plebiscite ballots ‘statehood yes or no’, while the Supreme Court determined whether the consultation served a public purpose.
On September 21, when the printing of the ballots for November 3 began, the majority of the Supreme Court declared the motion to aid jurisdiction and request for a stoppage of order inadmissible. Judge Estrella Martínez stated that, although the Supreme Court had the power to paralyze the proceedings, “in this particular case it is not appropriate to exercise it becauseat the request of the petitioners, it would have the direct effect of delaying the printing process of all the ballots for next November 3 “.
In his dissenting vote, Rodríguez Rodríguez, advanced his position on the validity of the plebiscite, noting that the vote violated the constitutional section that restricts the use of funds and public property for public purposes.
In a 59-page opinion signed by Martínez Torres, the majority of the Supreme Court validated the public purpose of the Law 51-2020 that enabled the plebiscite, as well as the provision of the Electoral Code that implements the presidential vote as of the 2024 elections.
In the majority opinion, Martínez Torres stressed that the precedent of Báez Galib vs. CEE in 2000, when the Supreme Court declared another law unconstitutional that also sought for Puerto Rican voters to exercise a symbolic presidential vote, because the statute did not serve a public purpose. On this occasion, the associate judge argued that both the plebiscite and the future presidential vote responded to the mandate of the people in the last two status consultations, which the majority of the high forum interpreted as triumphs for statehood.
Judge Colón Pérez responded with a 40-page dissenting opinion, which was joined by Oronoz Rodríguez and Rodríguez Rodríguez, in which he stated that the Supreme Court’s decision revoked under silence the precedent of Báez Galib and, in this way, “dangerously validate in our jurisdiction the use of public funds to advance the status formula proposed by the political party in power”.
The PPD had challenged a series of challenges presented by the PNP in Cataño on July 8, arguing that they had been submitted after the June 30 deadline established in the new Electoral Code. The then president of the EEC, Juan Ernesto Davila, reversed the determination of the local commission in Cataño, which had favored the PPD’s position, pointing out that an agreement of the electoral commissioners prior to the signing of the Electoral Code stipulated July 11 as the last day to present objections.
However, Dávila’s decision was reversed in the Court of first instance, which was held in the Appellate, after which the PNP commissioner, Hector Joaquin Sanchez, resorted to certiorari to the Supreme.
Kolthoff Caraballo, in the opinion of the court, indicated that the commissioners’ agreement was based on joint resolution 37 approved to delay the primaries from June to August in the face of the pandemic of the Covid-19, and that it authorized the EEC to establish the necessary regulations to adjust to the new date. According to the majority of the Supreme Court, the Electoral Code did not exceed the resolution despite being signed two weeks later, since, by not expressly repealing it, “Both coexist for the purposes of the administration of the electoral calendar” and that “A law of a special nature on the material prevails over a general one”.
Colón Pérez, in his dissenting opinion, called the court’s decision “a true act of legal juggling“In which” the order of hierarchy of the sources of Law that has traditionally prevailed is reversed. “
Early Vote By Mail – October 28
Despite the fact that the Electoral Code provides in its article 9.39 that “the validation of this type of early vote (by mail) will also be subject to the voter having included a copy of his electoral identification card or any other valid photo identification authorized by this Law”, the majority of the Supreme Court , through the voice of Judge Feliberti Cintrón, argued that the statute “does not say what to do if the voter forgets to make that copy in the envelope”.
In this way, the court opened the door for Rosado Colomer, following the disagreement of the electoral commissioners, to implement in the “manual of procedures for early voting by mail” a mechanism to notify voters in these cases, and that they could submit the required documentation to the EEC within three days.
Once again, Colón Pérez issued a dissenting opinion, in which he assured that the requirement to submit the documentation in the same envelope containing the ballots “is essential to guarantee the purity of the upcoming electoral process.”
“The majority try to refute this nullity (of the vote) by arguing that the administrative action was necessary to fill a gap or gap in the law … The fact that the law does not establish the procedure to which the majority alludes responds to the fact that the consequence of not including the identification is clear and absolute: the vote is not valid”, Colón Pérez underlined in the opinion that Rodríguez Rodríguez joined.