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Puerto Rico forced to halt primary voting in centers lacking ballots

The presidents of Puerto Rico’s two foremost political events each mentioned the remaining primaries ought to be held Aug. 16. Others argued scrapping and rescheduling.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico on Sunday was compelled to partially droop voting for primaries marred by a scarcity of ballots as officers known as on the president of the U.S. territory’s elections fee to resign.

The primaries for voting facilities that had not obtained ballots by early afternoon are anticipated to be rescheduled, whereas voting would proceed elsewhere, the fee mentioned.

“I’ve by no means seen on American soil one thing like what has simply been achieved right here in Puerto Rico. It’s a humiliation to our authorities and our folks,” mentioned Pedro Pierluisi, who’s working in opposition to Gov. Wanda Vázquez, to turn out to be the nominee for the pro-statehood New Progressive Get together.

In the meantime, Vázquez known as the state of affairs “a catastrophe” and demanded the resignation of the president of the elections fee.

“They made the folks of Puerto Rico, not the candidates, consider that they have been ready,” she mentioned. “Immediately the alternative was evident. They lied.”

A federal management board that oversees Puerto Rico’s funds issued a press release saying the “dysfunctional” voting course of was unacceptable and blamed it on what it mentioned was inefficiency by the elections fee.

The unprecedented state of affairs comes as voters ventured out amid a spike in COVID-19 instances throughout Puerto Rico, an island of three.2 million those that has reported greater than 12,800 possible instances, greater than 8,500 confirmed instances and at the very least 274 deaths.

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Gireliz Zambrana, a 31-year-old federal worker, frightened in regards to the variety of folks gathered at a voting heart in Río Grande as they huddled collectively whereas ready for it to open.

“They have been making an attempt to get away from the solar,” he mentioned, including that he by no means acquired to forged his vote.

The president of the governor’s occasion, Thomas Rivera Schatz, together with the president of the principle opposition Well-liked Democratic Get together, held an uncommon joint press convention and mentioned they agreed the remaining primaries ought to be held on Aug. 16, a transfer that Vázquez mentioned she supported. The 2 events are each holding their major elections with the profitable nominees amongst six gubernatorial candidates in November’s normal election.

Different politicians argued that the complete major be scrapped and held at one other date.

An incredulous Schatz famous that there have been nonetheless vehicles with ballots inside parked on the fee’s headquarters as they spoke there on Sunday afternoon.

“The query is, why haven’t they left?” he mentioned.

It was not instantly clear what number of voters have been turned away or what number of facilities obtained delayed ballots. A fee spokeswoman mentioned the president was not granting interviews.

To additional complicate issues, Edgardo Román, president of the Bar Affiliation of Puerto Rico, instructed The Related Press that it’s unclear what options are legally viable as a result of the island’s electoral legislation just isn’t clear.

“It doesn’t ponder this state of affairs,” he mentioned.

At the very least one voter filed a lawsuit in opposition to the fee and the electoral officers of the 2 foremost events late Sunday by way of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The state of affairs infuriated voters and politicians of all stripes as they blamed Puerto Rico’s elections fee and demanded an evidence for ballots reaching solely a handful of voting facilities by the afternoon.

“That is indignant, abusive and an try in opposition to the democracy of our nation,” mentioned Marcos Cruz, mayor of the northern city of Vega Baja that was nonetheless awaiting ballots.

In the meantime, officers from the island’s two foremost events scrambled to search out options as they urged voters to nonetheless present up at facilities that remained open late into the night time.

Yadira Pizarro, a 44-year-old trainer, ran out of endurance at a shuttered voting heart in Carolina the place she had waited greater than 4 hours underneath a blistering solar.

“I can’t consider this. That is some critical negligence,” she mentioned.

One of the vital intently watched races on Sunday is that of the pro-statehood Progressive New Get together, which pits two candidates who served as alternative governors following final yr’s political turmoil. Vázquez faces Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in Congress from 2009 to 2017.

Pierluisi briefly served as governor after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned in August 2019 following widespread avenue protests over a profanity-laced chat that was leaked and authorities corruption. However Puerto Rico’s Supreme Courtroom dominated that Vázquez, then the justice secretary, was constitutionally subsequent in line as a result of there was no secretary of state.

In the meantime, the principle opposition Well-liked Democratic Get together, which helps Puerto Rico’s present political standing as a U.S. territory, is holding a major for the primary time in its 82-year historical past. Three persons are vying to turn out to be governor — San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, identified for her public spats with U.S. President Donald Trump following the devastation of Hurricane Maria; Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia; and Carlos Delgado, mayor of the northwest coastal city of Isabela.

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