For Puerto Rico, an Election of Ifs
By John Marino
Special to The Washington Post
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –– For the first time in their century-long relationship
with the United States, Puerto Ricans will likely vote for president and
in the November general election.
With 2.4 million registered voters, Puerto Rico has more voters than
29 states. And the island's estimated eight electoral votes could prove
decisive in a close
But it remains doubtful the votes will ever be more than a symbolic
gesture, as the Justice Department is fighting to stop the vote and several
political groups here are
battling to keep the island government from spending the almost $1 million the vote would cost.
The drive for the presidential vote has been sparked by a controversial
decision here by Senior U.S. District Judge Jaime Pieras, who ruled in
August that Puerto
Ricans, as U.S. citizens, have an inherent right to vote in the national election. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico,
heard oral arguments in the Justice Department's appeal late last week.
The drive for the presidential vote is being pushed by the pro-statehood
administration of Gov. Pedro Rossello and attacked by the pro-commonwealth
Democratic and the Puerto Rican Independence parties. If Pieras's ruling is overturned by the Appeals Court, as many legal experts expect, the Rossello
administration will still push forward with the local vote because, the governor says, federal courts cannot overturn a local law passed in September that puts the
candidates for president and vice president on local ballots.
Puerto Ricans are divided in their views on this issue, which for many
boils down to a preference for statehood, independence or maintaining the
political relationship with the United States.
"This is a tactic by the NPP to push its status preference," said Eva
Vega, 61, a retired school cafeteria worker from Guanica, who said she
will ignore the
presidential choice. "We vote for governor here, not for a foreign leader."