24 November 2016

Puerto Rico voters scarce amid U.S. takeover of territory's economy


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- As the world anxiously observed the US elections, Puerto Rico, a US territory, also held its general election on Tuesday, November 8. And in a place that prides itself for historically having very high voting participation, turnout in these elections reached a new low.
Image by Kike Estrada and taken from
 planetakike.com. Used with permission
The illustration reads: “Don't forget to vote,” but uses a play on words. Normally, “to vote” would be written with a “v,” but in this case the artist wrote it using a “b,” which changes the meaning to “to throw out [the garbage].” The red and blue represent the colors of the two largest political parties in Puerto Rico, red for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and blue for the New Progressive Party (NPP).

While the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish) is celebrating that its candidate, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, was elected governor and that they achieved a majority in the Legislature, the fact remains that voter participation for these elections reached only 55.09%, according to the official numbers of the State Electoral Commission (Comisión Estatal de Elecciones, or CEE, in Spanish). This number is extremely low, considering that Puerto Rico traditionally has had a turnout of well over 75%. This year's numbers represent a huge drop from 78.19% in the 2012 election.

Another point of interest is the fact that Ricardo Rosselló won the election with only 655,626 votes, or 41.76%. This is the number that is usually used when discussing by how much a candidate won an election. Bear in mind that Puerto Rico has a population of roughly 3.5 million, of which approximately 2.9 million were registered to vote. This means that the governor was elected only by a little over 22% of registered voters, or roughly 19% of the population. This is the first time that a candidate for governor has been elected to office with such low numbers.