One week after election day 180 boxes of uncounted ballots were found in Puerto Rico. The island, like many states, was unprepared to deal with the high number of mail-in ballots received this year. Puerto Rico doesn’t get any electoral votes, but this could be changing.
Thousands of missing ballots
The boxes of ballots were reportedly found in multiple locations all over the island. “We don’t know exactly how much is in there,” Roberto Iván Aponte, the electoral commissioner of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, told reporters. “The Absentee and Early Vote Administrative Board is now in possession of the ballots.”
Some politicians have been critical of Puerto Rico, accusing the island’s leaders of being corrupt and politically illiterate. After Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, many were left homeless and desperate for help. The United States Government sent aid and supplies to the island.
Later those goods were discovered locked away in a warehouse instead of being distributed to the people in need. Footage of bottled water, cots and other unused emergency supplies went viral on social media. Citizens were outraged. Governor Wanda Vazquez quickly fired the director of the island’s emergency management agency.
It’s clear there are some communication problems on the island, and now it’s effecting their elections as well. “If it had been a smaller amount of ballots, it would have been carried out without any problem, because on Election Day there was no problem,” Aponte said. “The big problem is how this early voting issue was handled.” Nicolás Gautier, the electoral commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party, said, “I’m not leaving here until I fix this mess that just happened so it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Puerto Rico votes for statehood
Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917 and they can travel freely between the island and the mainland USA with no visa. However, Puerto Rico is not a state.
Therefore, the island has no representatives in Congress and no electoral votes for president. Now that might be changing.
52.2% of Puerto Ricans just voted in favor of becoming a state. Many Democrats in Washington support the idea, hoping to get more of their party members into office. Puerto Ricans tend to vote Democrat. Democrats also want Washington D.C. to be granted statehood, which would surely flip all branches of government blue for the foreseeable future.
For now, Puerto Rico’s elections are separate from our elections in the States. The United States Congress would need to vote to ratify Puerto Rico as the 51st state.
“This is largely a symbolic vote, but one that has significance,” Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat, told reporters. “If the island’s wish for independence is not honored, that creates a major blemish on America’s global image. It would look like Washington is standing in the way of Puerto Ricans’ democratic aspirations.”