Clinton, Rosselló, González and Ferrer win in Puerto Rico primaries

by Jun 6, 2016Elections, Headlines, Polls0 comments

After a contentious campaign, yesterday Puerto Rico held its primaries for the Democratic, New Progressive and Popular Democratic parties, where Hillary Clinton, Ricardo Rosselló, Jenniffer González and Héctor Ferrer emerged victorious in their respective races. With the contests over, we know who will compose the ballots for the major local parties come November.


New Progressive Party

While polls predicted his victory, Ricardo Rosselló delivered somewhat of an upset to incumbent resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. Rosselló has no prior public office experience, and only became active in politics as of the 2012 election cycle, when he founded a group to compaign on the status plebiscite. With Rosselló’s victory, the NPP presidency changes hands to him, as soon as the results are certified by the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico. The two candidates were in a tight race, that as of publishing time, with 90.12% of polling stations reported, had the winner up with 51.08% over Pierluisi’s 48.92%, a two point sixteen percentage point difference, the closest result since the first ever NPP primary for the governorship.

Similarly, although not surprising, Rosselló’s running mate, Jenniffer González, easily defeated former Puerto Rico transportation and public works secretary, former NPP president and former gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera, with 70.56% of the vote, versus the latter’s 29.44%. This result fell in line with expectations, due to Gonzalez’ strength as a candidate.

Overall, the NPP primaries had around 455,000 voters participate, or around 16% of registered voters, the lowest turnout rate since the 2003 primaries. Many consider the result to be a blessing for the PDP, since polls showed Pierluisi as a stronger candidate for the general election, a fact that stoked tensions during the heated primary campaign. Some of the drama even spilled over to voting day, when several Rosselló-affiliated electoral officials were arrested for interfering with the voting process, for allegedly preventing some citizens from casting their votes in the primary.

Speaking of polls, Pasquines performed rather well, in terms of outcomes. Both races ended up as our May edition poll had predicted, although results were much closer than our polling had indicated. Once final results are published, we will conduct a more thorough analysis and comparison.


Popular Democratic Party

On the popular side, the major race was that for resident commissioner. Héctor Ferrer emerged early as the leader, and maintained that position with enough distance, warranting Pasquines to call the race for him before any others in the day.

With 57.70%, PDP members gave gubernatorial candidate David Bernier his running mate for the general election, choosing the former state representative and PDP president over senator Angel Rosa, a first term legislator.

Our May polling also correctly predicted the outcome of this race, and the margin between the candidates to between one to two percentage points, should results hold as they are through the total count (currently 92.49% of stations have reported).


Democratic Party

For what turned out to be the most watched race of the night, results were initially in a startlingly slow trickle. While the State Elections Commission was bragging about the implementation of electronic tallying of the votes for the first time in Puerto Rico’s history, this implementation did not extend to the Democratic presidential primary due to budget cuts. In 2008 the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico had received around $1,000,000 to fund the process, and in 2016, that amount was reduced to $300,000. This also resulted in reduced polling locations, long lines, and lower voter turnout than in 2008.

The voting process was also subject of several controversies, involving the Bernie Sanders campaign, which accused local party officials of staging a fraud, by refusing to certify their representatives for the voting process. Party officials responded by saying the Sanders campaign had not only filed paperwork late, but also caused the reduction in polling locations, since allegedly, they were unable to find volunteers to represent them in all locations among other accusations. In addition, there were reports of a missing briefcase containing blank ballots for the process, and of certain polling locations running out of ballots for the process.

Controversies notwithstanding, we were able to call the race at 9:24 pm EST (the first to do so), based on the consistency of the early returns among all districts, and with our polling, which twice had predicted a Clinton victory.

Our May polls’ performance overall in terms of outcome was perfect, accurately predicting the four races for which we asked voters about. In two cases, it also looks as if our poll was extremely close to the voting percentages, particularly for the Democratic race. This warranted FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten to note our performance.

We won’t know the exact final results on any of the races until later this week, since election officials took Monday off after their late night shift last night.

With all major primary races defined in Puerto Rico, we now turn to what will surely be a hotly contested general election. A reinvigorated Popular Democratic Party is sure to take advantage of the opportunity Rosselló’s victory presents them, and the New Progressive Party will fight back equally hard. Until then, we will have more polling, more analysis, and of course, more controversies. Stay tuned.