The Washington Post
Friday , November 3, 2000 ; Page A10

Puerto Rico Court Halts Voting Bid

Orlando Sentinel

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Nov. 2 Puerto Rico's supreme court delivered the death blow today to any hope islanders had of voting in the U.S. presidential
election next week.

In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that a local law enabling the vote approved by pro-statehood New Progressive Party legislators was unconstitutional. The law, the
court said, serves "no valid public purpose" to merit spending public funds on the election.

In light of a federal appeals court ruling two weeks ago that their U.S. citizenship did not inherently give Puerto Ricans on the island the right to vote, the Puerto Rico
court said holding the vote Tuesday would be "promoting an electoral fallacy of enormous proportions."

Those who flocked to the courts to get the vote stopped were hardly surprised.

"We're euphoric," said Carlos Gorrin Peralta, a lawyer for the Puerto Rican Independence Party. The courts, he said, stopped the pro-statehood government and
legislators from "abusing their power and imposing on the people of Puerto Rico an election they don't want and have not authorized."

Advocates for the presidential vote said earlier in the week the fight will continue in federal court.

"This ruling doesn't end the controversy," said NPP Sen. Kenneth McClintock, one of the champions of holding a vote.

Gov. Pedro Rossello's pro-statehood administration joined in a lawsuit by 11 Puerto Ricans on the island who demanded to vote for president. U.S. District Judge
Jaime Pieras ruled Aug. 29 that Puerto Ricans' right to vote emanates from their U.S. citizenship.

Pieras ordered that the vote be held and that Congress count the resulting eight electoral votes. Over many objections, legislators approved the local law.

U.S. Justice Department lawyers argued that states, not individuals, elect the president through the Electoral College system, which excludes territories. Washington,
D.C., which was given the vote through a constitutional amendment in 1961, is the only exception.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on Oct. 13, reiterating a 1994 ruling that Puerto Rico had to become a state or obtain a constitutional amendment to vote.

                                                   © 2000 The Washington Post