The Miami Herald
Thu, Dec. 23, 2004

Court won't revisit Puerto Rico vote

A federal appeals court refused Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rosselló's request to reconsider throwing out disputed ballots from the Nov. 2 election.

Associated Press

BOSTON - A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a request to reconsider its ruling giving Puerto Rico's Supreme Court jurisdiction over disputed ballots in the island's gubernatorial election.

The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the full six-judge court would not hear arguments on the petition by former Gov. Pedro Rosselló, who is trying to throw out thousands of disputed ballots favoring his rival, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.

The court also said a smaller, three-judge panel that ruled against Rosselló last week would not revisit the case.

Rosselló had asked the First Circuit on Tuesday to reconsider last week's ruling, which found Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, not a federal judge on the U.S. territory, had jurisdiction over the ballots. The ruling was a setback for Rosselló because Puerto Rico's high court already had declared the votes valid.

The First Circuit gave no explanation for its decision, simply saying a majority of the six judges had voted against a second hearing.

A lawyer for Rosselló, Luis Berríos, said the New Progressive Party would decide this week whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pedro Ortiz Alvarez, a lawyer for Acevedo Vilá's Popular Democratic Party, applauded the court's decision, saying Rosselló's lawsuit had ``unnecessarily perturbed the Puerto Rican people.''

''It doesn't surprise me at all,'' he said. ``It just proves that the lawsuit lacked merit from the start. It never should have gone to a federal court.''

The disputed elections have deepened divisions in the Caribbean island of four million people. Acevedo Vilá supports Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. commonwealth; Rosselló favors statehood.

Preliminary election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vilá narrowly leading Rosselló, 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent.

Rosselló is disputing ballots in which voters marked Acevedo Vilá's name and also marked an ''x'' for the tiny Independence Party.

Acevedo Vilá'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.