Oversight Board wants the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission to fluctuate with electoral cycle

by | Jan 23, 2019 | Puerto Rico | Comments

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is recommending that the Government of Puerto Rico take the necessary steps to adjust the operations of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission (the “CEE” in Spanish) to fluctuate with the electoral cycle and restructure its organization to become more efficient.

In a letter to the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló (NPP, D), Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (NPP) and House Speaker Carlos J. Méndez Núñez (NPP), the Oversight Board stated that while the SEC does essential work to bolster democracy by registering voters and managing the electoral process, the SEC’s current operations do not match the needs that it serves or the fiscal reality of the islands.

“Elections take place every four years. The SEC should be most active in the year leading up to an election but can and should significantly reduce its operations in the remaining three years of an electoral cycle. This is what comparable electoral commissions do in in most states” wrote Oversight Board Chairman José B. Carrión in the letter.

The Oversight Board noted that the SEC’s structure is highly bureaucratic and costly compared to state elections commissions and offices, including a complex organizational chart, with a president, three vice-presidents, one electoral commissioner per party (currently three), alternate commissioners, a secretary, an under-secretary, staff and more than 85 Local Registration Boards (“JIPs” in Spanish) spread across the Island, each of which incurs personnel and administrative expenses. The Oversight Board added that according to the latest Office of Management and Budget data, the SEC has approximately 700 employees yet it does not provide the residents of Puerto Rico with the ability to leverage technology to register to vote online or renew their voting cards like states and countries do.

The Oversight Board said it is cognizant of recent expressions from government officials that are aligned with the board’s recommendation, and welcomes legislation and administrative actions to transform the SEC’s current operations. The Oversight Board issued its recommendation on the SEC pursuant to Section 205(a) of PROMESA, which allows the board to submit recommendations to the Governor or the Legislature on actions the Government of Puerto Rico may take to ensure compliance with the fiscal plan or to otherwise promote the financial stability, economic growth, management responsibility and service delivery efficiency of the Government. Under Section 205(b), the government has 90 days to provide an answer to the Oversight Board’s recommendation.