Rossello Signs Presidential Vote Bill
U.S. To Appeal Vote Decision
PIP Challenges Bill
Romeu Lawsuit Should Be Pursued
Congress Reluctant To Approve Plebiscite Funds
Panel Blocks $130 Million To Housing
Navy Asks Congress To Draft Referendum Option
PDP Sues To Stop Vote
Governor Signs Presidential Vote Bill
September 10, 2000
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico 's governor signed a law Sunday allowing islanders to cast ballots in U.S. presidential elections, although it was unclear whether their votes would actually count.
Gov. Pedro Rossello said in a statement the bill gave residents of the U.S. territory the opportunity "to make their voices heard, along with their genuine desire to participate fully in the approaching democratic processes."
Local legislators approved the bill last week following a U.S. District Court ruling that Puerto Ricans have the right to vote for president. Judge Jaime Pieras ordered the local government to prepare presidential ballots for the upcoming Nov. 7 elections.
The ruling challenges Puerto Rico 's peculiar relationship with the United States, in which islanders are U.S. citizens but do not vote for president and have only a non-voting delegate in Congress.
The law adds a fourth ballot to the elections for legislature, governor and municipal posts. About 2.4 million of Puerto Rico 's 3.8 million people are registered to vote, and the island typically has a voter turnout of more than 80 percent.
While the new law has been largely ignored in Washington, it has created a storm within Puerto Rico . Pro-independence activists and supporters of the current commonwealth arrangement fear the law is a step toward making the island the 51st state.
Feds To Appeal Presidential Vote Decision
September 11, 2000
SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced it will appeal a ruling that allows U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to vote for president in the upcoming elections.
Lawyers filed a one-paragraph notice of appeal to the decision issued Aug. 29, moving the case to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston before electoral officials being preparing ballots for the Nov. 7 elections.
"Basically, our position is that the U.S. Constitution doesn't provide for non-states to choose electoral college voters," said Charles Miller, DOJ spokesman. The only exception, he said, is Amendment 23, which gives Washington, D.C. residents the right to vote for president.
Puerto Rican lawyer Gregorio Igartua de la Rosa, who filed the lawsuit demanding the right to vote, said he disagreed with the federal government's appeal.
"This goes against the national democratic principles of the U.S.," he said.
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jaime Pieras would add 2.4 million voters to the U.S. electoral registry, an amount greater than half the U.S. states and the same as voters registered in states such as Colorado, Arizona and Alabama in the 1996 general elections.
PIP Challenges Presidential Vote Bill
September 11, 2000
SAN JUAN (AP) - As they had said they would do, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) officials on Monday challenged in court the constitutionality of the law allowing Puerto Rico residents to vote for president in the upcoming elections.
Former PIP Sen. Fernando Martin, party vice president, said upon filing the challenge that they will argue the Legislature does not have the authority to change the island's political situation through legislation, that no public funds can be used for political purposes, and that the time during which the measure could be approved by the Legislature had expired late Saturday.
"[Legislators] have the option of holding a new session to approve the law again but the 20 days of the legislative session had expired when they approved the measure," Martin said.
Rossello: Romeu Lawsuit Should Be Appealed
September 11, 2000
FAJARDO (AP) - Gov. Pedro Rossello on Monday said the lawsuit filed by Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Xavier Romeu, demanding the right to vote for president while he resides in Puerto Rico, should be appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin, of New York's Southern District, dismissed the lawsuit filed by Romeu this year, ruling that island residents living under the Commonwealth can't vote for the U.S. president.
The judge recognized, however, that "undoubtedly, all U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico suffer a grave injustice."
Rossello said the decision, which he described as "very good," should be appealed.
"Even if the decision does not allow U.S. citizens who had previously voted in New York to cast absentee ballots, which was the crux of the lawsuit, I think the judge's opinion recognizes that there is a great inconsistency in not allowing U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico to vote," the governor said.
Romeu said he plans to take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Congress Reluctant To Approve Funds For Plebiscite Education
September 12, 2000
SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Congress is reluctant to approve funds for matters related to educating the island's population about status plebiscites in Puerto Rico, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) said.
Legislative aide for the House Appropriations Subcommittee Kevin Messner said the House should not assign funds for matters related to another plebiscite in Puerto Rico because a plebiscite was recently held in the island.
Congressional Panel Blocks $130 Million To Housing
September 14, 2000
SAN JUAN (AP) - The Senate subcommittee that assigns funds to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday approved a measure requiring the Puerto Rico government to show that federal housing funds will not be misspent before any additional money can be allocated, according to published reports.
At issue is an allocation of $130 million to the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration (PHA) as part of a settlement between the Puerto Rico government and HUD over a discrimination lawsuit filed by local officials.
"The accord may have its merits, but we want to know how the money is going to be invested and where it will end up," said Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), who chairs the subcommittee that assigns money to HUD.
Navy Asks Congress To Draft Vieques Referendum Option
September 14, 2000
SAN JUAN (AP) - U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Danzig asked the Congress to eliminate restrictions on the way the Navy can draft its option to remain in Vieques so they have a possibility of winning the referendum, according to published reports.
PDP Asks Court To Stop Presidential Vote
September 14, 2000
By Proviana Colon Diaz of PuertoRicoWOW News Service
Puerto Rico Democratic Party Chapter President Edualdo Baez Galib on Wednesday filed a motion before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court asking it to order the State Elections Commission (SEC) to not include the presidential vote in the upcoming Nov. 7 general elections.
Baez Galib based his motion on two basic arguments: that the presidential vote can only be obtained by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution or if Puerto Rico becomes a state; and that under the Commonwealth Constitution public funds can only be used for public purposes. Because the presidential vote is purely related to the status issue, Baez Galib argued, the use of public funds to enable the process is illegal.