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Voting Guide: Everything You Need to Know for the 2020 Elections in Puerto Rico

Election Day is just around the corner in Puerto Rico. On November 3rd, Puerto Ricans will be able to head out to the polls and mark the ballots that will partially seal the Island’s fate during the next four years. That might sound intimidating, and although voting is a necessary part of any democracy, it’s not as complicated as it appears. After this brief guide, you’ll be ready to take an informed decision that represents your vision of a better nation. 

Check your voting center and status

If your voting status isn’t active by now, you can’t vote in the 2020 Puerto Rican elections, as the cutoff date to register was September 14th. However, if you’re an active voter, all you need to know is the voting center you’ve been assigned to. Head to the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections’ website, input your voter number, and you can find out your current status and the specific location of your voting center. If you’ve registered to vote for the first time just recently, you must be at least 18 years old before or on November 3rd. 

polling station
Photo by Elliott Stallion from Unsplash

Inform yourself about the candidates

Don’t fret about feeling politically ignorant. There’s a boatload of information online to educate yourself right up until the day before the election. Voting without informing yourself about aspiring politicians’ goals is a mistake that mostly leads to electing to office those who don’t have the best interest of the people in mind. 

For the 2020 elections, five political parties have candidates up on the ballot for most seats in public office. In addition, there are a handful of independent candidates without any party affiliations, meaning that there’s more variety than ever. 

The six most prominent candidates for Puerto Rico’s governor during the upcoming elections are listed below:

  • Carlos ‘’Charlie’’ Delgado Altieri – Popular Democratic Party (PPD)
  • Pedro Pierluisi Urrutía – New Progressive Party (PNP)
  • Juan Dalmau Ramírez – Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)
  • Alexandra Lúgaro Aponte – Citizens’ Victory Movement (MVC)
  • César Vázquez Muñiz – Dignity Project
  • Eliezer Molina Pérez – Independent candidate

To discover who you’re eligible to vote for, head to Quién Me Representa PR, an initiative by a nonprofit organization called Espacios Abiertos. After inputting your zipcode on the website, you’ll get a list of all the candidates you’re able to vote for on November 3rd. The website even includes links to the candidates’ social media and campaign pages, making it easier to find out about their proposals and ideas for the Island. 

After finding out which politicians can receive your vote, it’s crucial to make sure you know all about their plans, proposed laws and ideals. The worthiest vote is an informed vote, after all. 

If you want a summarized version of the aspiring governors’ plans for Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has them online as a part of their educational campaign called “Tu Voto No Se Deja”. If you want information about almost every single candidate, you can read up on some brief profiles that the organization has prepared via Instagram

To compare candidates with each other or obtain further information, you can consult this website as well. 

woman wearing yellow sweater typing on laptop
Photo by Christin Hume from Unsplash

Ignore the clichés

Your vote is valid and necessary. You are entitled to vote for the candidates you believe are the best even if they “have a low chance of winning.” In Puerto Rico’s case, the bipartisan system has monopolized the Island’s political system for decades, but analysts agree that this is changing—and for the better

Alternatives to the New Progressive Party (PNP, in Spanish) and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD, in Spanish) have always existed. In fact, eliminating the lesser-of-two-evils mentality from the Puerto Rican landscape is key toward actual progress. 

Since the 1970s, both the PPD and PNP have been complicit in racking up Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt by using its bond investment money to balance out the nation’s budget despite violating the constitutional clause that prohibits contracted debts by the Island’s government to exceed the average of internal incomes from the two previous fiscal years prior to the debt being emitted. 

In other words, the governors who have previously represented the main parties in Puerto Rican politics have engaged in unconstitutional practices either out of negligence or corruption. Whichever the case is, there has been little to no efforts put into place to responsibly manage the debt and hold accountable those who created the current economic and social crisis. 

There is no shame in voting for candidates who truly represent your ideals and have presented the evidence to back up how they will execute the plans that align with your ideal of a harmonious Puerto Rico. 

After ex-governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned from office after two weeks of massive protests back in 2019, it has been made evident that escaping the bipartisan system is not only necessary, but also a potential reality. Regardless of the clichés and previous elections, your vote matters now more than ever. Don’t let detractors take away your will to vote.

street with Puerto Rican flag
Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez from Unsplash

Practice your vote and understand how the ballots work

To make sure your vote is counted on Election Day, your vote must be emitted correctly. Every Puerto Rican citizen is entitled to cast votes for the following seats in public office:

  • One (1) vote for the Governor of Puerto Rico. 
  • One (1) vote for the resident commissioner, a non-voting member of the United States House of Representatives.
  • One (1) vote for senator at-large. 
  • Two (2) votes for senator by district. 
  • One (1) vote for representative at-large.
  • One (1) vote for representative by district. 
  • One (1) vote for the mayor of the town or city you’re inscripted in. 

These seats in office are divided into three ballots: the state, legislative and municipal ballot. During the 2020 elections, there will be a fourth ballot that will allow voters to affirm or deny their support toward statehood for Puerto Rico. 

Although PNP politicians have been campaigning for a “Yes” vote, with members of other political parties vying for a “No,” many politicians and public officials have asked citizens to ignore this ballot, as it is a non-binding referendum, meaning that the United States has no legal obligation to recognize the results of this deliberation. 

To practice your vote and ensure you don’t ruin the ballot, “Practica Tu Voto” is an amazing tool that will give you clarity on how to cast your vote without any issues. There are three different methods of voting, but I implore you to study the political platforms of every candidate before marking those Xs. Check out how to vote using each method here

If you make a mistake, you have the right to ask one of the voting center functionaries for another ballot of the same category after giving back the ruined ballot. However, you’ll only be entitled to receive a second ballot per category, so you only have two chances to get it right per ballot. 

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes from Unsplash

Get to the polls and be ready

Gather all your patience, as waiting in the polls might be a stressful time due to social distancing and safety measures implemented to avoid the spread of COVID-19. If possible, try to figure out at what time the polls will be empty and try to arrive near that time so your exposure is reduced. 

To vote, you need to bring a valid identification that has your picture on it. If you somehow forget, you’ll be given a provisional ballot that will be counted once your eligibility is certified. If you’re a new voter and haven’t received your voter ID yet, you can use your driver’s license or passport to vote. 

If you have COVID-19 or suspect you carry the virus, inform one of the voting center employees and they will carry out the procedure to make sure that you cast your vote from the safety of your vehicle and away from the mass of people in the voting center. 

line of people using their phones
Photo by Camilo Jimenez from Unsplash

Inform others

Every single vote counts, so make sure that you help your loved ones cast their votes appropriately, be it by explaining the voting process, teaching them the different voting methods, or educating them about the candidates’ platforms and how they will be affected by the victory of certain candidates over others. For more information regarding the election process, make sure to check out Tu Voto Puerto Rico, an alliance of educational resources of which some I’ve already mentioned. 

The polls open from 9 am to 5 pm on Tuesday, November 3rd. Make sure you cast your vote and your voice is heard to change the future of Puerto Rico.

Luis is a 24-year-old writer, editor and journalist recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. He majored in Creative Writing and Communications and has bylines published under Her Campus, Pulso Estudiantil and El Nuevo Día. During his final year of college, Luis worked as Senior Editor for Her Campus at UPR, Editor in Chief of Digital News at Pulso Estudiantil and interned at El Nuevo Día. He seeks to portray the stories of societies, subcultures and identities that have remained in the dark. Check all of his stories out at Muckrack! https://muckrack.com/luis-alfaro-perez
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