To discharge the right under the First Amendment of the Constitution
of the United States of America to petition the Congress through the holding
of a plebiscite on the scope of the sovereignty of the United States of
America over Puerto Rico, and the political status of the citizens that
reside on the Island, pursuant to Article IX of the Treaty of Paris of
1898, through the electoral mandate which arises from the options to petition
the Congress submitted to the electors and presented as provided in the
doctrines of the Supreme Court of the United States, Resolution 1541 (XV)
of the United Nations Organization, and the existing interpretations in
the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Federal Government regarding
the territorial condition of Puerto Rico; establish the prohibitions regarding
the publication of announcements; define certain crimes with regard to
this plebiscite; appropriate funds; and repeal Act No. 2 of July 4, 1993,
known as the "Plebiscite on the Political Status of Puerto Rico of
STATEMENT OF MOTIVES
One of the most valued rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the
United States is the right to petition the Congress for the redress of
grievances. This right, whose origin dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215,
is an essential part of the collective rights on freedom of thought and
expression protected in the First Amendment of our supreme fundamental
"The Congress shall not approve any act ... which limits ... the
right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for
the redress of grievances."
This is, essentially, the right to petition the Representative Body
of the People for the redress of grievances and therefore, it constitutes
sublime evidence that in our system of government the power rests directly
on the individual. This right, which during the 19th century was used by
the abolitionist movement in the United States with dramatic effects, is
an essential part of a "protection under which individual points of
view are inviolable." This is Jefferson's philosophy, "that man's
opinions are not subject to the civil government nor to its jurisdiction."
Our translation. (Schneider v. Smith, 390 U.S. 17, 25 (1968).
This precedent is now a source of inspiration for a claim of equal stature.
It is the feeling of the majority of Puerto Ricans and of this Legislature,
that Puerto Rico's colonial status is a grievance that must be redressed.
The lack of consensus among Puerto Ricans themselves as to the nature of
this status inhibited that a clear statement be addressed to the Congress
of the United States. As of 1993, the situation changed and as a result,
the Government of the United States commenced a true decolonization process
which to date has as a tentative result, the approval of H.R. 856 by the
House of Representatives of the One Hundred and Fifth (105th) Congress.
This process is continuing its course in the United States Senate, and
President William J. Clinton has stated his interest and desire that it
shall lead to a felicitous and speedy conclusion.
Nevertheless, this moment does not advise us to wait with folded arms.
Rather, the moment requires greater commitment, stronger will and more
action. This measure intends to formalize the procedure through which the
People of Puerto Rico shall express its will on the reaches of United States
sovereignty over Puerto Rico and its political status. Therefore, this
measure is adopted in a free spirit of collaboration and in harmony with
the efforts of those friends of democracy that have joined together in
our decolonizing cause throughout the Nation.
Spain ceded the territory of Puerto Rico to the United States under
the Treaty of Paris signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, which clearly
stated in Article IX that henceforth, "the civil rights and political
status of the native inhabitants of the territories thus ceded to the United
States shall be determined by the Congress." The inclusion of this
provision constituted a recognition of the plenary powers of the Congress
to "dispose of, or promulgate all the rules and regulations needed
in regard to the territory or any property belonging to the United States,"
pursuant to Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United
When the change of the sovereignty of Puerto Rico was perfected by virtue
of the Treaty of Paris, Article IX established that the political condition
of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico and all other territories ceded to the
United States would be determined by the Congress. Thus, it was made clear
that in the future, the Congress would exercise its plenary powers over
Puerto Rico, pursuant to Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution
of the United States.
In the exercise of this plenary and sovereign power, the Congress approved
two organic charters for Puerto Rico which established a continuous progressively
greater degree of self government in the internal affairs of the territory.
It also granted United States citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917. Finally,
in 1948, it legislated so that Puerto Ricans could elect their own governor.
However, these acts, although beneficial for the development of Puerto
Rico and its inhabitants, do not fully satisfy the hopes of the Puerto
Rican People. The Island was still an unincorporated territory of the United
States. To wit, although Puerto Rico is for International Law purposes
a part of the United States, for internal law purposes it is not included
as part of the term "United States" in the Federal Constitution.
Thus, with the exception of the basic civil guarantees, the provisions
of the Federal Constitution do not apply directly to Puerto Rico. Balzac
v. Puerto Rico, 258 U.S.C. 298 (1922).
The autonomy of the People of Puerto Rico with regard to its internal
affairs was still inferior to that of a State of the Union. Besides, in
spite of their condition as United States citizens, Puerto Ricans did not
enjoy then, nor do they now, the same rights of their fellow citizens in
the States of the Union.
In view of the continued dissatisfaction with Puerto Rico's political
status, the Congress approved legislation in 1950, for the People of Puerto
Rico to organize a government based on a constitution adopted by themselves,
but which required the consent of the President and the Congress of the
United States (Act No. 600 of July 3, 1950). The legislation was established
with the condition that the People of Puerto Rico would be in agreement
with it. This, however, did not cause the United States to resign its sovereignty
over Puerto Rico under the Treaty of Paris.
Once the Puerto Ricans approved the above stated mechanism in a referendum,
a Constitutional Convention was convoked which drafted a Constitution.
This was ratified by the People of Puerto Rico in a referendum and approved,
with amendments, by the Congress of the United States. The Constitution
of the political body that was denominated as the Estado Libre Asociado
de Puerto Rico ("Commonwealth" in English), became effective
on July 25, 1952, and is still in effect.
However, it became clear in the debate on Law 600, and the subsequent
approval of the Constitution by the Congress, that said process did not
alter the political status of Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory.
Undoubtedly, the delegation of full authority or sovereignty to the
government of Puerto Rico on its internal affairs, created an arrangement,
as stated by the United States Supreme Court, of a "unique" nature,
being the first territory governed under an organic act or constitution
drafted and approved by the inhabitants of the territory. The Commonwealth
has autonomy over its internal affairs similar to that of a State, Puerto
Rico v. Branstad, 483 U.S. 219 (1987); Rodríguez
v. Popular Democratic Party, 457 U.S. 1 (1982), etc., but without
Puerto Ricans having full and equitable representation in the Congress,
and not being able to vote for the President and Vice President. Of greater
importance, the authority of the Congress over Puerto Rico under Article
4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Federal Constitution, still remains unaltered.
Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651 (1980). On the basis of its
plenary and sovereign authority, the Congress can discriminate against
Puerto Rico and its residents in ways that would not be permissible if
it were a State of the Union.
Once the Constitution of the Commonwealth took effect, the Executive
Power of the United States went to the United Nations Organization so that
in recognition of the consent given by the People of Puerto Rico, and at
the level of its own internal government, the government of the United
States would be exempted from rendering reports on its obligation to direct
the territory towards a greater degree of self government. Based on the
Executive Power's representation, the General Assembly of the United Nations
Organization agreed to exempt the United States government from that requirement,
upon the approval of Resolution No. 748. That is the scope of said resolution,
since, logically, the United Nations Organization cannot alter the territorial
status of Puerto Rico, since that is a matter defined by the internal laws
of the United States.
Years after the approval of Resolution 748, the United Nations Organization
approved specific parameters to define the moment in which a colony has
attained an acceptable degree of self government. Accepted at that time
as valid decolonizing options were (1) full independence, (2) full integration,
known as statehood in the United States constitutional law, and (3) free
association, defined as a compact between independent and sovereign countries.
What was clearly found with the approval of the local Constitution of
Puerto Rico of 1952, is that said process did not close the doors to a
future change in the political status of the Island. 4 Diary of Sessions
of the Constitutional Convention 2361, 2364 (Words of delegate Luis Muñoz-Marín),
2556 (Report of the Committee on the Preamble, Ordinances and Procedures
of Amendments to the Constitution, on the Preamble).
In harmony with the above, the Legislature of Puerto Rico approved Joint
Resolution No. 1, of December 3, 1962, to request the Congress to establish
a process to dispose the final political status of Puerto Rico. In response,
the Congress approved Public Law 88-271, which created a Political Status
Commission. It proposed that a plebiscite be held, which was put into effect
on July 23, 1967. In this consultation, the People favored the Commonwealth
formula, with 60.4% of the votes cast. Statehood obtained 39.0% and Independence
That plebiscite did not produce any change nor development in Puerto
Rico's political status. Therefore, on November 14, 1993, another plebiscite
was held. As a result, and for the first time since the present relationship
was established in 1952, Commonwealth did not have the full endorsement
of the majority of the votes cast. The formula prevailed with a plurality
of 48.6% of the votes. Statehood obtained 46.3%, and Independence 4.4%.
In view of this result, the Legislature of Puerto Rico approved Concurrent
Resolution No. 24 of November 30, 1993, whereby the Congress was asked
to respond to the results of the 1993 Plebiscite, specifically whether
the definition of Commonwealth that was submitted to the vote in the 1993
Plebiscite was viable. This was prepared by the Popular Democratic Party,
which defended said formula in that plebiscite.
In answer, said definition was taken to the House Committee with jurisdiction,
the Committee on Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Committee
considered it and defeated it by an overwhelming vote of 32 by 10, and
in its place, that Committee, and later the House of Representatives, in
full, passed H.R. 856. Said bill would enable the process for a status
plebiscite among options defined by the Congress, to be held in 1998.
This is the process from which the parameters that frame this legislation
The plebiscite constitute a claim or petition of the People of Puerto
Rico to the Congress of the United States to act and answer the clamor
of the voters, which is an obligation of the Congress assumed in the Treaty
of Paris, and under the applicable postulates of international law and
the resolutions of the United Nations Organization. Therefore, contrary
to the previous plebiscites, and since the Congress refused the formula
defined unilaterally by its defenders in the 1993 plebiscite, we cannot
back up and repeat the same process. We now have a notion of what is viable
and what is not so, based on the votes and the discussions in the congressional
committees with jurisdiction, and in whole of the Federal House. Having
rejected the definition which prevailed by plurality in 1993, it corresponds
to Puerto Ricans to make a new claim, based, this time, on what we now
know is viable, under constitutional and international law, as well as
based on the will prevailing in the Congress and the White House.
On the basis of the above, the Legislature hereby approves this plebiscite
process to make it viable for the People of Puerto Rico to petition the
Congress to implement the political status that is favored in the voting
provided herein. It is not a matter of submitting unrealistic wishes or
hopes to the voters, of making competition between political parties viable,
and much less to vote exclusively on what they want. What this process
seeks is that after one hundred years from the change of sovereignty and
the obligation assumed by the Congress under the Treaty of Paris to determine
the political status of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, they are enabled
to make a claim to or petition the Congress under the First Amendment of
the Constitution of the United States to exert its powers and act in accordance
with the will expressed by the People of Puerto Rico in the democratic
exercise of their right to self-determination.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF PUERTO RICO:
Section 1. Statement of Public Policy
The Legislature, as the legitimate and constitutional representative
of the People of Puerto Rico has the power and responsibility of making
viable an electoral process that will see to the century-old controversy
and dissatisfaction with regard to the scope of the sovereignty of the
Congress of the United States over Puerto Rico.
This responsibility is exercised through options that are alien to partisan
discourse and controversies, but which are founded within realistic and
viable parameters which arise exclusively from Federal Constitutional Law,
of Resolution 1541 (XV) of the United Nations Organization in its suppletory
nature, and the interpretations in force in the Executive and Legislative
Branches of the Federal Government on Puerto Rico's territorial status.
Thus, any deviation that could cause local political partisanship and any
other discordant criteria is excluded. In this way, this Legislature also
limits itself in its broad discretion when configuring the options for
the petitions to the Congress.
- This Act is not adopted to conclusively define any political status
formula, since this does not correspond to Puerto Rico unilaterally. Much
less does it propose to include a list of wishes and aspirations by each
party or ideological sector.
- This Act does not pretend to define the level of power that our People
exert through a sovereignty limited to its local government. That is not
Puerto Rico's status problem. Nor does this law promote an electoral exercise
with mere local consequences.
- Nor does this Act intend to tamper with the accuracy and legal feasibility
of the petitions made to Congress, including elements which are accessories
to the consigned in each petition. To do so would vitiate the specified
constitutional and legal foundations which uphold the validity and feasibility
of each petition. Accessory elements, which would fall within the scope
of that which would be "desirable" for each ideological sector
participating in the process, may be subject to negotiation once the electoral
mandate of the People is obtained. Therefore, the ambitions or desires
that each ideological sector has are not excluded from this process, but
rather assigned to the negotiation stage that follows the expression of
the electoral mandate. In this manner, flexibility is guaranteed for each
ideological sector to exercise its mandate once it is obtained, within
a reasonable period, thus preventing the electoral petition process from
being contaminated with desires contrary to law or unfeasible.
- This Act is adopted for the sole purpose of defining the sovereignty
that the United States is to exercise over Puerto Rico, if any, and the
political condition of the residents of Puerto Rico in relation to the
By means of this plebiscite, a vehicle is provided for the exercise
of the fundamental right of citizens to petition the Federal Government
for the redress of grievances, recognized in the First Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States. Likewise, this vehicle thus afforded
is structured within the Federal jurisdiction provided for in Article IX
of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, which clearly recognizes that the primary
power to determine the political condition of the inhabitants of Puerto
Rico rests on the Congress of the United States.
In the plebiscite of 1993 it was proven that the dissatisfaction of
the majority of the population regarding the political status issue is
not resolved by an electoral mandate based on partisan convenience or,
even less so, on goals, desires, and ambitions that are unfeasible, which,
when included in the definitions of political status formulas, countervail
the bases of Constitutional Law of the United States, International Law,
as suppletorily applied, and the constructions in force of the Federal
The more concise, realistic, and feasible the premises contained in
the mandate, the greater the probability they will have to be negotiated
and carried out in Congress by the victor in the consultation. This is
the first plebiscite in which Puerto Ricans have the opportunity of voting
specifically for options of realistic and feasible petitions in a ballot.
Attune with the above, a process alternate to that which would be provided
by a Federal act, in which the labels which lead to confusion as the result
of the partisan debate and the usual effort of each sector to attempt to
define the label of the others, are discarded, is hereby provided. Thus,
we apply the very sage maxim: "a rose by any other name would smell
as sweet." Our People would be enabled to cast a wiser vote when presented
with alternatives of clear and realistic content.
The absence of labels also provides maximum prevention against the manipulation
of concepts and names which could be used in different forms and could
be likewise interpreted by Congress in a very discretional manner.
If the scope of the sovereignty that the United States exercises over
Puerto Rico or the political condition of Puerto Ricans were to be resolved
with the unilateral action of Puerto Ricans, then this centenary issue
would have been resolved ages ago. If this were the case, it would have
sufficed to consign a list of the desires and ambitions proposed by each
partisan or ideological sector. But all of us are well aware that the legal
reality is very different. The two parties must be inevitably involved:
the People of Puerto Rico and the People of the United States, represented
by its Congress. The bottom line is that any plebiscite process presented
by the Legislature must recognize the legal reality referred to above.
The process provided for in this Act is a process to be conducted between
petitioners and the petitioned. The contents of the petition must not thwart
its feasibility from the start with the party to whom it is addressed.
The petition must have legal and constitutional foundations, including
the presence of practical precedents which, at the very least, establish
the moral obligation of the party thus petitioned.
It is here that the reasonability of this process lies.
Section 2. It is hereby provided that a Plebiscite shall be held on
December 13, 1998, in which the People of Puerto Rico shall express their
preference from among the political status or petition options to the Federal
Government as to the scope of the sovereignty of the United States over
Puerto Rico and the political condition of the residents of the Island.
Said Plebiscite shall be held in a free, unbiased and democratic manner
so that qualified voters may vote in the same and choose from the status
options established according to the following alternatives:
- Should the Congress approve legislation and the President of the United
States sign it into law, the definitions of the status options established
in said Act shall be used; or
- Should a Federal Law to enable a plebiscite process concerning the
political status of Puerto Rico not be approved, the definitions of the
status options to be used in the Plebiscite shall be provided in Section
4 of this Act exclusively pursuant to the parameters established by the
House of Representatives of the One Hundred and Fifth (105th) Congress
of the United States in H.R 856, known as the "United States - Puerto
Rico Political Status Act."
The petition options to be used in this Plebiscite according to the
above stated subsection (b), shall be consonant with the Federal Constitution,
the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States on the political
status of Puerto Rico and the power of the United States Congress over
Puerto Rico, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution
of the United States of America, as well as Resolution 1541 (XV) of the
United Nations Organization regarding the separate sovereignty options.
Section 3. The Commonwealth Election Commission is hereby directed to
take final action on the political status or the petition options to the
Federal Government to be used in the Plebiscite, pursuant to the provisions
of Section 2 of this Act, immediately after the President of the United
States signs into law a measure enabling a plebiscite process on the political
status of Puerto Rico or the One Hundred and Fifth (105th) Congress of
the United States adjourns sine die or on October 12, 1998, whichever occurs
Section 4. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall design and print
a ballot to be used, which shall uniform in size, printed in black ink
on heavy paper so that what is printed thereon does not show through to
The ballot shall be designed according to one of the following alternatives:
- Should the Congress approve legislation and the President of the United
States sign it into law, the ballot shall be designed and printed pursuant
to the provisions therein.
Should it not be provided otherwise, the ballot shall bear the following
full-width heading at the top: "Plebiscite on the Political Status
of Puerto Rico." The ballot shall contain a column for each of the
status options stated in said Federal Act.
Likewise, the top of the column shall contain the number of each of
the options, respectively. An additional column shall also be provided
in the ballot, at the end of the latter, in which the phrase "None
of the Above" shall appear. The rest shall remain blank for any voter
who does not wish to choose any of the status options included in the ballot,
to mark that space exclusively in his/her own handwriting, except in those
special cases in which the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, as amended, allows
for a second person to assist the voter at the moment of casting his/her
vote. This last column in the ballot, identified with the phrase "None
of the Above," is a means provided to grant the individual the right
to differ from the options included in the ballot.
- If a Federal Law is not approved to enable the plebiscite process,
the ballot shall be designed with a column for each of the four (4) petition
options given within the parameters of the status formulas approved by
the House of Representatives of the One Hundred and Fifth (105th) Congress
of the United States in H.R. 856, known as the "United States - Puerto
Rico Political Status Act." The top of the ballot shall bear the following
full-width heading printed in bold: "PETITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE UNITED STATES." Below, and printed full-width shall appear the
following text printed in bold: "We, the People, in the exercise of
the power vested upon us by the First Amendment of the Constitution of
the United States, do hereby firmly petition the Congress of the United
States, that with all deliberate haste, and after one hundred years of
political subordination, the political condition of the People of Puerto
Rico and the scope of the sovereignty of the United States of America be
defined in an unequivocal manner in order to resolve the present territorial
problem of the Island under the following option:
The top of each column shall bear the number assigned by lot to each
of the petitions, respectively. The petition options shall be placed within
the column corresponding in logical order to the number obtained in the
drawing. Furthermore, an additional column shall be provided, at the end
of the aforementioned four (4) columns, in which the phrase "None
of the Above" shall appear.
Immediately below the number assigned by lot to each of the petition
options or the phrase "None of the Above," each of the five (5)
columns shall have a space provided for the voter to make his mark, exclusively
in his/her own handwriting, except in those special cases in which the
Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, as amended, allows for a second person to
assist the voter at the moment of casting his/her vote.
This last additional column in the ballot, identified as "None
of the Above," is included so as to provide a means to allow each
voter the opportunity to exercise his/her right to free expression. By
virtue of the above, no political party or group, organization or entity
may assume official representation of an option which it identifies with
the vote cast under said column for the purpose of availing itself of the
provisions of this Act concerning electoral representation, the appropriation
of funds or any other responsibility or power conferred by this Act.
Immediately below the space provided for the mark of the voter in each
of the first four (4) columns there shall appear the text, in bold, of
each of the petition options consigned below in the order to be determined
by the aforementioned drawing:
- "The admission of Puerto Rico into the Union of the United States
of America as a sovereign state, with rights, responsibilities and benefits
completely equal to those enjoyed by the rest of the states. Retaining,
furthermore, the sovereignty of Puerto Rico in those matters which are
not delegated by the Constitution of the United States to the Federal Government.
The right to the presidential vote and equal representation in the Senate
and proportional representation in the House of Representatives, without
impairment to the representation of the rest of the states. Also maintaining
the present Constitution of Puerto Rico and the same Commonwealth laws;
and with permanent United States citizenship guaranteed by the Constitution
of the United States of America. The provisions of the Federal law on the
use of the English language in the agencies and courts of the Federal Government
in the fifty states of the Union shall apply equally in the State of Puerto
Rico, as at present."
- "The application of the sovereignty of the Congress over Puerto
Rico, which by virtue of Federal Act 600 of July 3, 1950, delegates upon
the Island the establishment of a government limited to matters of a strict
local order under its own Constitution. Said local government shall be
subject to the authority of the Congress, the Constitution and the laws
and treaties of the United States. By virtue of the Treaty of Paris and
the Territorial Clause of the Federal Constitution, the Congress may treat
Puerto Rico differently from the states, provided a rational basis exists
for doing so. The United States citizenship of the Puerto Rican people
shall be statutory. English shall continue to be the official language
of the agencies and the courts of the Federal Government which operate
in Puerto Rico."
- "A Treaty which recognizes the full sovereignty of Puerto Rico
to develop its relationship with the United States in a noncolonial, nonterritorial
association. The United States shall relinquish all of its powers over
Puerto Rico upon entering into the Treaty. Puerto Rico shall retain all
powers not expressly delegated to the United States. Puerto Rico shall
provide over the Puerto Rican citizenship. Current United States citizens
in Puerto Rico shall retain their United States citizenship if they so
desire, and may pass it on to their descendants, subject to the provisions
of United States laws or the Treaty. It should be construed that, as of
the effectiveness of the Treaty, the mere fact of having been born in Puerto
Rico shall not constitute the right to United States citizenship. The Treaty
to be negotiated shall provide for in matters concerning the market, defense,
the use of the dollar, economic assistance, and the protection of personal
vested rights. The Treaty shall also recognize the sovereign capacity of
Puerto Rico to enter into agreements and other international treaties."
- "The recognition of the fact that Puerto Rico is a sovereign republic
with full authority over its territory and its international relationships,
with a Constitution that shall be the Supreme Law that provides for a republican
government system and the protection of human rights. The residents of
Puerto Rico shall owe allegiance to, and shall have the citizenship and
nationality of, the Republic of Puerto Rico. Having been born in Puerto
Rico or having relatives with statutory United States citizenship by birth,
shall no longer be grounds for United States citizenship; except for those
persons who had the United States citizenship, who shall have the statutory
right to keep that citizenship for the rest of their lives, by right or
by choice, as provided by the laws of the Congress of the United States.
The benefits of the individuals residing in Puerto Rico, acquired because
of services or contributions made to the United States, shall be honored
by the United States. Puerto Rico and the United States shall develop cooperation
treaties, including economic and programmatic assistance for a reasonable
period, free commerce and transit, and military force status."
The additional column identified by the phrase "None of the Above"
referred to in subsections (1) and (2) of this Section, is included with
the purpose of providing a means to enable all voters to exercise their
right of freedom of expression. By virtue of the above, no political party
or group, organization, or entity may assume the official representation
of an option which it identifies with the vote cast under said column so
as to avail itself of the provisions of this Act concerning electoral representation,
appropriation of funds, or any other responsibility or power conferred
by this Act.
Section 5. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall have the responsibility,
without excluding any other functions conferred thereto by virtue of this
Act, of organizing, directing, implementing and supervising the Plebiscite
process as provided in this Act.
Section 6. Act No. 4 of December 20, 1977, as amended, known as the
"Electoral Law of Puerto Rico," and the regulations approved
by virtue thereof, shall be considered supplemental to this Act and their
provisions shall apply to all the procedures related to the holding of
the Plebiscite, as may be necessary, pertinent and compatible with the
purposes of this Act and for which no other regime has been adopted. The
Commonwealth Election Commission shall be empowered to adopt the regulations
or resolutions that may be necessary for this procedure to be carried out
and so that the purposes of this Act are met in an effective and equitable
manner. In the event there is no unanimous consensus among the Electoral
Commissioners and the representatives of the groups, organizations, or
entities certified pursuant to the provisions of Section 10 of this Act,
concerning the adoption of norms, regulations or resolutions within the
terms provided herein, the Chairman shall make the decision for or against
according to the provisions of subsection (e) of Section 1.006 of the Electoral
Law of Puerto Rico.
The Local Election Commissions shall perform the functions proper to
their responsibilities, adjusting them to the special characteristics of
this Plebiscite. The leave that is granted to the Local Commissioners who
are public employees by Section 1.021 of the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico
shall be in effect for a term of seventy-five (75) days. For the purposes
of this Plebiscite, the payment of per diems is authorized as provided
in Section 1.029 of the Puerto Rico Electoral Law, as amended, up to a
maximum of four (4) monthly meetings. Furthermore, the payment of per diems
for representatives of the groups, organizations, and entities certified
pursuant to Section 10 of this Act, who are acting as Local Election Commissioners,
is hereby authorized, up to a maximum of four (4) monthly meetings.
Section 7. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall announce the Plebiscite
through a Proclamation and, to such effect, it shall publish the announcement
of the holding thereof in three (3) newspapers of general circulation in
the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico within a term of not less than sixty (60)
calendar days in advance thereof.
Section 8. All voters duly qualified as such pursuant to the Electoral
Law of Puerto Rico shall be entitled to vote in the Plebiscite provided
in this Act. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall include in the
list of voters all electors with an active record who, as of the date of
the Plebiscite, have reached the age of eighteen (18) and appear in the
electoral registry, in accordance with Section 16 of this Act. The presentation
of the Puerto Rico Electoral Identification Card shall be required, which
shall be perforated after the elector deposits his/her vote, and indelible
inking in the voting process, shall be required, pursuant to the Electoral
Law of Puerto Rico.
Section 9. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall organize a campaign
to guide and inform the Puerto Rican electors on: the holding of a Plebiscite
on Puerto Rico's Political Status, on December 13, 1998; exhorting the
voters to register and participate in it; the manner in which the voter
shall mark the ballot to consign his/her vote thereon; and the contents
of the definitions of each of the status or petition options. The Commonwealth
Election Commission shall use all communications media and broadcasting
techniques available to it for said campaign, including the diffusion of
the options contained in the ballot through the television media. The same
shall begin fifty-five (55) days before the date on which the Plebiscite
is to be held, except with regard to the guidance and information exhorting
the voters to register and participate therein, which shall begin immediately
after the effective date of this Act. As part of its information and guidance
phase, this campaign shall reproduce verbatim in the communications media,
the text of the definitions or petitions which shall be submitted to the
vote. The Commission shall publish on the Internet and at least once in
all the newspapers of general circulation, the text of the definitions
or petitions and shall reproduce said text on flyers to be distributed
Likewise, the Commission shall reproduce said texts on large posters,
to be displayed in public places, bulletin boards in government offices,
registration boards and polling places. The size of the flyers, posters
and of the paper on which the ballot is to be printed and of other publications
shall be determined by the Commonwealth Election Commission through regulations.
Section 10. The mainstream, duly registered political parties may participate
in official representation of one of the options in the Plebiscite. Their
central directive bodies shall inform the Commonwealth Election Commission
of said intention, in writing, no later than four (4) days following the
date on which the Commonwealth Election Commission publishes the Proclamation
referred to in Section 7 of this Act. Any group, organization or entity
may request to be certified to officially represent any option that is
not represented by a political party. The Commonwealth Election Commission
shall proceed to issue a certification accrediting said petition, provided
that the group, organization or entity meets the following requirements:
- If on the date of its certification by the Commonwealth Election Commission
said group, organization or entity had legal capacity at the time of the
approval of this Act and had a public and recognized history of defending
the option in question.
- That said group, organization or entity wishes to participate actively
in the proposed Plebiscite in support of the option of its preference,
and that in effect, its central directive body has made the corresponding
- That the central directive body of said group, organization or entity
that will represent the status or petition option of its preference before
the government bodies, for all purposes of this Plebiscite, shall notify
the Commonwealth Election Commission, in writing, the names and addresses
of the members that constitute the directive body of said group, which
shall appear on the certification issued by the Commonwealth Election Commission.
In order to be certified, the group shall file a number of duly signed
and sworn petitions for endorsement with the Commonwealth Election Commission
as provided in Section 4.011 of the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, as amended,
equal to not less than three percent (3%) of the electors that voted in
the Plebiscite of 1993 for the status option that obtained the least number
of votes in said referendum. Said petitions shall only be signed by electors
entitled to vote. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall adopt the
norms that shall govern the special form and procedures that shall be observed
to implement this provision by a Resolution, no later than five (5) days
following the date of approval of this Act. Once these Regulations have
been approved, the Commonwealth Election Commission shall immediately make
the endorsement petition forms available to the eligible groups. These
petitions shall be sworn by officials authorized to do so by law and by
those persons that the Commission authorizes.
Section 11. Any bona fide groups of citizens may participate as observers
of the electoral process, provided they meet the requirements provided
to such effect by the Commonwealth Election Commission through regulations.
The Commonwealth Election Commission shall provide by regulations, not
later than ten (10) days following the date of approval of this Act, the
level of participation that these groups shall have in the Plebiscite process
as observers, pursuant to the provisions of the Electoral Law of Puerto
Rico, as amended. The citizen groups that wish to participate as observers
in the electoral process shall inform the Commonwealth Election Commission
of their intent within fifteen (15) days following the date of this Act.
In all processes germane to the holding of the plebiscite provided herein,
only those parties that have notified the Commonwealth Election Commission
of their intention to participate in the Plebiscite and those groups, organizations
or entities certified to officially represent one of the four (4) status
or petition options, shall be entitled to enjoy all those benefits and
powers provided in this Act and in the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, as
amended, including the right to be represented at the polling places and
to appoint polling officials.
Likewise, any group of citizens that is certified to represent one of
the status or petition options, shall be entitled to appoint a representative
before the Commonwealth Election Commission with voice and vote. Likewise,
it may appoint representatives with voice and vote before the Local Commissions
and the Unit Boards and polling places.
If a duly registered political party abstains from or fails to participate
in the plebiscite provided by this Act in defense of one of the options,
its Electoral Commissioner shall not be entitled to vote in the determinations
to be made by the Commission regarding said plebiscite. This provision
shall also apply to the representative of any organization that, after
being certified by the Commission, fails to participate in the plebiscite.
The participation of a party or organization that abstains or withdraws
from the process, as the case may be, shall likewise be limited, and shall
not participate in the local commissions nor be entitled to representation
on the Unit Boards or polling places.
Section 12. The electors who are entitled to an absentee vote as provided
in Section 5.035 of the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, as amended, shall
file their application under oath, at least thirty (30) days prior to the
date of the holding of the Plebiscite. A term of not less than thirty (30)
days shall be granted after the ballots have been remitted to the elector
by the Commonwealth Election Commission, to adjudicate the absentee votes
that are received.
Section 13. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall establish through
a resolution, the maximum number of officials or employees of the agency,
of the National Guard, professionals and employees who render emergency
medical services, Custodial Officers of the Corrections Administration,
members of the Firefighters Corps, the Municipal Police or the Police of
Puerto Rico assigned to functions on the day the Plebiscite is held, who
shall have the right to an early vote.
Section 14. On the day of the Plebiscite, the Police of Puerto Rico
shall provide sufficient regular personnel to ensure that public law and
order is maintained. In those municipalities in which there are Municipal
Police Corps, they shall collaborate with the Police of Puerto Rico in
their duties to maintain order and safety in the polling places.
Section 15. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall adopt the rules
to carry out the Plebiscite at least forty-five (45) days in advance. The
voting rules for this Plebiscite shall be as simple as possible. Since
there shall be one single ballot and the elector shall vote for only one
of the options, the holding of public hearings for the adoption of the
voting rules provided in Section 1.030 of the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico,
as amended, shall not apply. Every proposed amendment to said regulations
must be filed with the Commonwealth Election Commission by one of the Electoral
Commissioners or by a certified representative with voice and vote of said
group, organization or entity certified to officially represent one of
the status or petition options, and must be approved by unanimity of the
votes of the Commissioners and the representatives of the certified groups,
organizations, or entities present when the votes are cast. Any amendment
submitted to the consideration of said Commission and of the certified
representatives of the groups, organizations, or entities that fail to
receive such unanimity of votes shall be decided, for or against, by the
Chairman, whose decision shall be deemed as the decision of the Commonwealth
Election Commission, and may be appealed as provided in the Electoral Law
of Puerto Rico, as amended. Provided, that any amendment made during the
last twenty (20) days before the voting and until the canvassing is completed,
shall be made solely by a unanimity of votes of the Commissioners and the
representatives of the organizations certified pursuant to this Act.
Section 16. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall determine when
the voting lists and the closing of the lists shall occur. The date of
the last closing of the electoral register shall never be later than fifty
(50) days prior to the holding of the Plebiscite. The Commission shall
provide measures and remedies in order to guarantee the right to vote of
any elector who, for reasons beyond his/her control, was unduly omitted
from the electoral register.
Section 17. The Commonwealth Election Commission shall preserve all
the ballots and the poll certificates corresponding to the Plebiscite for
a term of ninety (90) days from the certification of the results, and they
shall then be destroyed, unless a judicial proceeding is pending, in which
case, they shall be conserved until there is a final and binding decision.
Section 18. For the purposes of this Act, the Chairman of the Commonwealth
Election Commission is hereby authorized to contract the professional services
and order the purchase or lease of materials and printing equipment and
machines directly from suppliers without the intervention of the Procurement
Service of the General Services Administration. Likewise, the Chairman
of the Commission is authorized to contract the use of electronic or any
other type of machines to carry out the purposes of this Act.
It shall be the obligation of the Government of the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, its agencies, departments, bureaus, offices, dependencies,
instrumentality's, public corporations or their subsidiaries, to transfer
to the Commonwealth Election Commission, free of charge, for its use during
a reasonable term, and provided that this will not unduly hinder the public
activities they perform, such office equipment and other mechanical, electronic,
transportation equipment, personnel or other resources they have available,
which are needed to adequately perform the duties imposed by this Act.
- Without impairment to the provisions of Section 7.003 of Act No. 4
of December 20, 1977, as amended, better known as the "Electoral Law
of Puerto Rico," commercial establishments may choose to open for
business from three o'clock in the afternoon (3:00 p.m.) to twelve midnight
(12:00) on December 13, 1998. This provision shall not be applicable to
the operation of a racetrack.
- The prohibition contained in Section 8.024 of the Electoral Law of
Puerto Rico, as amended, regarding the opening or operation of commercial
establishments that sell alcoholic beverages shall be applicable on December
13, 1998, during the period comprised from two in the morning (2:00 a.m.)
to three in the afternoon (3:00 p.m.) of that day. This prohibition shall
at no time be applicable to commercial establishments that operate in hotels,
inns, condo-hotels and cruise ships, and which constitute part of the facilities
offered to their guests or visitors, when the sale of alcoholic beverages
is for consumption in that same place.
Every commercial establishment found to have violated the prohibition
contained in subsection (b) of this Section, shall be sanctioned with a
fine of five thousand (5,000) dollars for each violation, or the cancellation
of its license or permit to sell alcoholic beverages, or both penalties
at the discretion of the Court.
Section 20. Every employer shall have the obligation to grant the necessary
time to his/her employees who serve as polling place officials in the Plebiscite
and that may thus prove it, without pay and without being charged to any
leave. The officials shall have the obligation to present evidence of their
participation in the process through the corresponding certification.
Section 21. No natural or juridical person shall contribute, directly
or indirectly, to the plebiscite campaign of a mainstream political party,
group, organization or entity that represents one of the status or petition
options, or to independent groups supporting any status or petition option,
in excess of the following amounts:
- Natural or juridical persons may make voluntary contributions to a
political party or group representing one of the political status options
in the Plebiscite up to a total amount of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500).
Likewise, natural or juridical persons may make contributions to independent
groups or committees supporting one of the options up to the amount of
twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500). In no case shall the total contributions
of one person exceed the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000).
- Any direct or indirect contribution by a banking institution or any
institution devoted to lending money; brokerage firms devoted to selling
securities; and corporations whose stock is sold in stock markets or to
the general public, or by affiliates or subsidiaries thereof, made for
purposes of the Plebiscite campaign of any political party or group that
represents one of the political status options in the Plebiscite, shall
Section 22. Any person or group of persons not affiliated to a political
party or to any group, organization or entity certified or selected to
defend one of the options, that receives contributions or incurs independent
expenses in excess of twenty-five hundred (2,500) dollars to campaign for
or against one of the options, shall register with the Commission within
ten (10) days following the date on which they were organized as a group,
or the date on which they received the contribution or incurred the expense
in excess of the provided herein. The Commission shall provide the procedures
for the registration of said groups or persons through regulations, not
later than five (5) days after the date of approval of this Act.
Section 23. Any person or group of persons not attached to a political
party or to any group, organization or entity certified or selected to
defend one of the status options, that independently requests or accepts
contributions, or incurs independent expenses for the benefit of one of
the options, must publicly reveal and specify that said expense has not
been approved by the party or group which represents a status option. Any
oral or written communication through which contributions are requested
or accepted, or through which independent expenses are incurred for the
benefit of a party, group, organization or entity, except any that has
been certified or selected, shall indicate clearly and straightforwardly
that the activity or announcement published has been made without the authorization
of the party or group, organization or entity certified or selected that
In any publicized communication, be it oral or written, as provided
in this Section, the name of the person, persons or independent group which
sponsor(s) and defray(s) the same must always be identified, as well as
the name of the treasurer or his/her authorized agent, should it be a political
organization or committee.
Section 24.- Sixty (60) days before the date the Plebiscite is to be
held and until one day after the date the same was held, the departments,
bureaus, offices, dependencies, instrumentality's, public corporations
or subsidiaries thereof, municipalities or political subdivisions of the
Government of Puerto Rico, the Legislature of Puerto Rico and of the Judiciary
Branch, are prohibited from incurring expenses for the purchase of time
and space in the public information media to expound their programs, projects,
achievements, accomplishments, projections or plans, or to otherwise exert
influence, directly or indirectly, on the electors as to their vote in
the Plebiscite on the Political Status of Puerto Rico. Those press notices
and announcements expressly required by law are excluded from this provision.
Also excluded are those notices used to divulge information of public interest,
urgency or emergency, which shall only be allowed by prior authorization
of the Commonwealth Election Commission. This provision shall not apply
to the Committee created through Joint Resolution No. 58 of June 1, 1997,
Section 25.- It is prohibited to keep public propaganda or persuasion
premises for or against the status options proposed in the Plebiscite,
open to the public on the day of the Plebiscite within a radius of one
hundred (100) meters from any building or structure where a polling place
has been established, which distance shall be measured from any point of
the building or structure where the propaganda premise has been installed.
Section 26. No propaganda or persuasion premises for or against the
status options proposed in the Plebiscite shall be installed at less than
fifty (50) meters from another one or from a political propaganda premise
or from the Permanent Registration Boards established previously. The implementation
of this Section shall be carried out pursuant to the provisions of Section
8.002 of the Puerto Rico Electoral Act, as amended.
Section 27. In addition to the prohibitions mentioned above, the provisions
on prohibitions and offenses established in Sections 8.003 to 8.027 of
the Puerto Rico Electoral Act, as amended, shall govern in full force and
Section 28. Any person who violates the provisions of this Act shall
be sanctioned upon conviction with the penalty of imprisonment for not
more than six (6) months or a fine which shall not exceed five hundred
(500) dollars, or both penalties at the discretion of the Court, except
for the penalty established for every business establishment found in violation
of the prohibition established in Section 19 of this Act.
Section 29. The Chairman of the Commonwealth Election Commission shall
send a certification of the results of the Plebiscite to the Governor of
Puerto Rico and to the Secretary of the Department of State not later than
forty-eight (48) hours after the general canvassing is completed. The Governor,
in turn, shall certify the results to the President and to the Congress
of the United States and to the Legislature of Puerto Rico. The Secretary
of the Department of State shall publish the results of the general canvassing
in the communications media.
- Should a Federal Law to enable a plebiscite process on the political
status of Puerto Rico be approved, the funds appropriated therein shall
be distributed in the following manner, unless the said Law provides otherwise:
- Fifty percent (50%) of the total amount, to the Commonwealth Election
Commission, for the organization and holding of the Plebiscite.
- Fifty percent (50%) of the total amount shall be distributed by the
Commonwealth Election Commission equitably to the political parties or
the group, organization or entity qualified under Section 10 of this Act.
This funds shall be available solely for purposes of voter information
Should a Federal Law to enable a plebiscite process on the political
status of Puerto Rico be approved after distribution of Commonwealth funds
for said purpose, and should the appropriation of Federal funds be equal
to the funds appropriated to the Commission for the holding of the Plebiscite
herein provided, the Commonwealth Government shall be reimbursed a sum
equal to the total of funds used and the expenses shall continue to be
drawn against the balance of funds appropriated herein. If the appropriation
of Federal funds is less than the funds appropriated though this Act, the
latter shall be reduced proportionately to the sum appropriated though
the Federal law.
Furthermore, the sum of two million, three hundred thousand dollars
($2,300,000) is hereby appropriated to the Commonwealth Election Commission
from unencumbered funds in the Commonwealth Treasury, for expenses of the
information and guidance campaign provided in Section 9 of this Act. The
Chairman of the Commonwealth Election Commission is hereby authorized to
promptly direct and execute the education and guidance campaign pursuant
to the provisions in subsection (h) of Section 1.011 of the Puerto Rico
Electoral Law, as amended.
- Should the 105th Congress not approve a measure enabling a plebiscite
process for Puerto Rico, the total sum of nine million (9,000,000) dollars
shall be appropriated to the Commonwealth Election Commission from unencumbered
funds in the Commonwealth Treasury, immediately after the approval of this
Act, to be distributed as follows:
- Four million, seven hundred thousand dollars ($4,700,000), for the
organization and holding of the Plebiscite.
- Two million, three hundred thousand dollars ($2,300,000), for the expenses
of the information and guidance campaign provided in Section 9 of this
- Two million (2,000,000) dollars, to be allotted equitably to the political
parties or those groups, organizations or entities certified pursuant to
the provisions of Section 10 of this Act, so that they may use said funds
to conduct a campaign of education and guidance on the benefits and advantages
of the petition they were certified to defend by the Commonwealth Elections
Commission. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the sum received by each political
party group, organization or entity shall be directly, exclusively and
totally used for the information and guidance campaign for voters, through
massive communications media and broadcasting techniques, in favor of the
status or petition option that each one represents. To such effects, every
announcement, message, notice, promotion or other advertising medium sponsored
by a political party, group, organization, or entity, paid for from the
funds received pursuant to the provisions of this subsection, shall bear,
in a conspicuous manner, the phrase "Vote for," and immediately
after, the option that said political party, group, organization, or entity
was certified to represent. Said funds shall not be available until October
All the funds received by the party, group, organization, or entity
certified to officially represent one of the status or petition options
which have not been spent or encumbered as of December 13, 1998, for purposes
consistent with this Act, shall be immediately reimbursed to the Commission.
Should a political party or group, organization, or entity certified
to officially represent one of the status or petition options cease to
sponsor or participate in this Plebiscite after having received funds pursuant
to this subsection, it shall immediately reimburse any unspent remaining
amount of money to the Commission. Furthermore, should there exist no major
cause in determining not to participate, in the judgment of the Commission,
the total amount of money received under this subsection shall be reimbursed.
- The Commission shall regulate all matters concerning the filing of
the financial statements by the parties and groups, organizations or entities
receiving funds under this Act.
Section 31. Act No. 22 of July 4, 1993, known as the "Puerto Rico
Political Status Plebiscite Act of 1993," is hereby repealed.
Section 32. The provisions of this Act shall be considered to be related
one to another and shall not be construed fragmentarily, but as a whole.
In the exercise of its constitutional faculties under Article III of the
Constitution, the intention of the Legislature shall be that the petitions
to be voted on shall be solely and exclusively those provided in Section
4 of this Act, and that there shall be no others. Any change, alteration,
modification, or substitution of the petitions or their contents, or if
any part of this Act is declared null and void because of its unconstitutionality,
total effectiveness of this Act shall cease immediately, and the body of
laws shall return to the situation existing before its approval. It shall
be understood that it is the intention of the Legislature that said determination
of nullity shall affect the totality of this Act. Cease of effectiveness
of this Act shall not affect the lawfulness of the situations carried out
thereunder, prior to its declaration of nullity by unconstitutionality,
but its effects shall terminate upon the ceasing of its effectiveness.
Section 33. This Act shall take effect immediately after its approval.