The Puerto Rico Elections Commission yesterday declared Anibal Acevedo Vila the winner of the island's hotly contested race for governor by a margin of 3,228 votes. An hour after the...
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Puerto Rico Elections Commission yesterday declared Anibal Acevedo Vila the winner of the island’s hotly contested race for governor by a margin of 3,228 votes.
An hour after the recount was completed, Acevedo Vila sought to bring the divided island together during an emotional address to hundreds of cheering supporters at a local nightclub.
“You have given me your trust, and I will work hard to earn it,” said the outgoing resident commissioner, a member of the Popular Democratic Party.
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“Those of you who didn’t vote for me, please join me. We must all work together to bring the best to Puerto Rico,” he said, extending an olive branch to supporters of former two-term Gov. Pedro Rossello.
“I can’t do it alone,” Acevedo Vila said.
The declaration capped Puerto Rico’s most tumultuous election in two decades and included seven weeks of legal wrangling, three disruptions that halted the hand recount of nearly 2 million ballots and allegations that each of the two major candidates was trying to steal the election.
Rossello, of the New Progressive Party (NPP), did not concede defeat yesterday. He said he’s considering his options, including taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thomas Rivera Schatz, the NPP’s election commissioner, said he will not sign his name to papers certifying Acevedo Vila as winner of the election.
“We do not recognize the results,” Schatz said. “There are serious questions about the validity of thousands of ballots.”
Aurelio Gracia, president of the Elections Commission, said the recount outcome will be certified Tuesday, enabling the new governor to be sworn in Jan 2.
The results come a day after the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider its earlier decision to kick the Election Day dispute, centered on the validity of thousands of mixed ballots, back to Puerto Rico’s local courts. Mixed ballots were those on which voters not only marked Acevedo Vila’s name, but also marked an “x” for the tiny Independence Party.
Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court had ruled earlier that the ballots were legal and should be counted. And the court reaffirmed its decision yesterday.
Acevedo Vila’s supporters say Puerto Rico’s laws allow voters to cast “mixed votes” to support keeping the Independence Party registered while also supporting candidates from other parties.
Political parties must receive a certain percentage of votes to remain qualified to receive state money. Acevedo Vila, a commonwealth supporter, actively campaigned for such ballots, appealing to the Independence Party to back his candidacy as a strategy to keep pro-statehood Rossello from winning the governor’s mansion.
Information from The Associated Press about the mixed ballots is included in this report.