The lack of controls in the Administrative Board of Absentee and Early Voting (Javaa) in the handling of over 200 thousand voters who availed themselves of this voting modality and the lack of balance in administrative decision-making in the State Elections Commission ( CEE), are the two points that require the most attention in the opinion of the electoral commissioners of the political parties, when taking stock of the process almost two months before the general elections.
In interviews with THE SPOKESMANThey also pointed out that the operation of the Office of Information Systems and Electronic Processing (Osipe), in charge of managing data, lists and publishing the results of the electoral event, should be evaluated. The questions focus, particularly, on the lack of transparency and the need for new technologies to be implemented, indicated the commissioners consulted.
Meanwhile, the processes in the EEC continued, although the alternate president of the EEC Jessika Padilla Rivera, indicated yesterday afternoon that in general terms the scrutiny would be concluding last night.
He also noted that the certifications of the elected candidates will be issued on December 31.
“There are 46 briefcases on the table, they are already pending to be worked on by the officials who are working at the tables and tomorrow (today) we must be finishing with what is added by hand and from the Administrative Board of Absentee Voting (JAVA) and the consideration of the minutes, ”Padilla Rivera told THE SPOKESMAN.
This media asked the commissioners for an analysis of what happened in the elections and what things they understand should be improved, since the process was characterized by circumstances that can be considered unusual. That included the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused more voters to take advantage of the early voting and vote-by-mail mechanisms. Added to this was the approval of the electoral reform a few months before the general elections of November 3.
The EEC also faced in the middle of the electoral process, the departure of then president Juan Ernesto Dávila and the arrival of his replacement, Francisco Rosado Colomer, after the failed August primary when the first difficulties in the voting process were registered.
The electoral commissioner of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Roberto Iván Aponte, stated that it was positive that after the primaries a consensus was reached among the parties to elect Rosado Colomer and carry out the elections in November.
“It was decided to lay down arms, sit down and reach a consensus. That was achieved, but there is no doubt about the mistake that the approval of the new Electoral Code and its dire consequences have been – for me. Among them, the handling of early voting, a matter that since the Electoral Code was approved some of us argued that this was going to happen, because there was no control process whatsoever. I questioned the previous president and he never explained how he was going to serve him. Finally, the number of people who requested early voting without any type of supervision shot up and this is what we are living here after more than a month in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, trying to conclude the counting process, “he said.
He indicated that the biggest problem was the lack of structure and organization in Javaa, a situation that Rosado Colomer repeatedly attributed to the political parties and not to the actions of the EEC. Javaa’s structure is made up of a manager from each party and a manager assigned by the CEE.
“I think that (in Javaa) they did not prepare with a very specific plan of how to serve more than 200,000 voters. It seems to me that they went very low in terms of the projection of the number of people who were going to request the early vote and in that I get the impression that the determination of the Federal Court, which extended 10 more days to the people to request an early vote, he opened a space greater than the amount that had been projected ”, he commented.
La Javaa continued to operate in the counting of votes in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum until shortly before the counting began, and then it moved to the Electoral Operations building in Hato Rey. In the middle of that move, there were situations with the handling of early voting ballots and misplaced briefcases. A large number of tables were then deployed to handle Javaa’s votes in the coliseum, along with other tables to carry out the scrutiny and counting of the legislative ballot. There, minority parties detected situations such as, for example, a mismatch in the number of ballots with the number of voters who voted early.
Claim for more technology
Meanwhile, the electoral commissioner of the New Progressive Party (PNP), Héctor Joaquín Sánchez, urged changes in Javaa and Osipe, and applauded the consensus that existed before the elections to elect the president.
“Javaa urgently needs a new reengineering. He urgently needs personal training so that they understand that decisions have to be made for the benefit of the voters and not on strictly political matters. Javaa urgently needs to refine what the plans for the future are because people liked voting by mail and that vote is here to stay. So technology is necessary to guarantee greater internal controls, “he said.
Likewise, he pointed out as an unfortunate matter that Javaa briefcases have been located outside the designated areas and even outside the coliseum. “I think it was a bad process to have to move things from one place to another. Here it was necessary to rethink leaving Electoral Operations there and Javaa here in the coliseum. Perhaps that would have been avoided, but there are people who want to please and this is not to please, it is to find what is the most inconvenient, “he said.
He expressed concern about the collapse that occurred in the system that Osipe managed on election day and that kept the people blind from the results for a period of time.
“It is a mistake that the EEC does not have a technology to be able to operate in a more efficient way what is the vote by mail and the absentee vote. Here with more advanced technology we could have ensured greater internal controls. For example, where are the briefcases, where are the ballots, how many ballots were used. Another mistake is the poor maintenance of the counting machines, ”he said.
“There is too much deficiency”
Olvin Valentín, electoral commissioner of the Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC), also focused his analysis on the management of Javaa and recommended that more oversight processes be implemented in Osipe.
“I think it has been shown —and the Country has seen it— that there is too much deficiency in the process. I think it was a question of using a system that in previous years had perhaps served 30,000 voters and this time the number rose to 200,000 without substantial changes being made to that structure. I understand that Javaa was not prepared to handle a volume of this magnitude and it was a very drastic change ”, he declared.
“Neither does (Javaa) consider control mechanisms for, for example, the inventory of briefcases. There was no control of where Javaa’s briefcases were, when they arrived, where they are and that they kept reappearing, “he added.
Valentin urged a complete reform of the CEE, Javaa and Osipe. “I believe that the complete CEE must reform many things, but Javaa must be completely rethought because if we are going to continue working on this early vote and by mail, we cannot reach a next election with this same Javaa model,” he warned.
He believed that Osipe has a very important control of the elections, but that there is no visibility of what is happening there. “Yes reports and minutes do come out, but there is not as much visibility with what Osipe works,” he said.
Indicates lack of balance
For his part, the electoral commissioner of the PPD, Gerardo “Toñito” Cruz, applauded the opening that the EEC had to insert – due to Covid-19 – new options to exercise the right to vote in the early voting modalities, and recognized as positive that Javaa counted votes from October 31. However, he criticized the disorganization that occurred with Javaa’s briefcases during the vote counting and later during the scrutiny and recount.
He also questioned that Rosado Colomer placed people directly linked to the PNP in administrative positions, which in his opinion made it difficult to balance in decision-making.
“If you innovated with early voting by mail —that there is no voting list because the voter did not show up anywhere to vote— you had to have a more up-to-date system of how many votes by mail you approved, how many you sent, how many returned and how many had the right to be awarded ”, he expressed.
“What you see of Javaa today is not a problem that was born yesterday or this morning. What you see of Javaa is the product of the decisions that were made in the month of June to November, when it was under the direction of that person. She knew how Javaa worked, but putting the entire Javaa scaffolding in the hands of a political party is a mistake. We are still seeing that today ”, he added.
He pointed out that by December 11, the full EEC had had to make over 600 determinations due to controversies that arose in the process, a figure that he called unusual. “Here all this happened along the way, decisions were made to immediately solve the problem I have yesterday or today, but a week later that problem was different. Then you have to create another determination, “he said.