During the second week of February, the Puerto Rico Senate Governing Committee held public hearings for the legislative measures that will amend Law 58-2020, the Electoral Code of Puerto Rico.
Law 58 changed the democratic election process in Puerto Rico in three main ways:
- There was a structural change to the State Electoral Commission (SEC)
- There is more flexibility for absentee voters
- There are some changes made to the guidelines for parties.
These changes affected the way voters could vote. For instance, there was more advantage for straight-party voting, which is where voters vote for candidates under one party’s emblem. The party with the most straight-party votes will be named the state majority party. This party can decide key positions in important organizations such as the SEC. There are some disadvantages to this. Other parties cannot play a major role in important decisions because the board is controlled by the majority party. Law 58 gave absolute power to one party in the SEC.
The newly amended version of Law 58 is called Senate Bill 909. This project aims to guarantee the balanced participation of parties in the SEC and equal representation. The project also aims to help refine the process of absentee voting, make sure the machines are used correctly and secure the counting of votes. This all was amended due to the 2020 election cycle when there were thousands of uncounted votes in the election. There were boxes of uncounted ballots that could have changed the outcome of the elections, especially for mayor.
Ramon Ruiz Nieves, the senator for the Popular Democratic Party, hopes this project can be passed in the Senate before the 2024 election cycle to prevent the same problems from arising.