Why Puerto Rico's Democratic Primary Polling Centers Were Closed Shortly Before The June Primary
As a U.S. territory, politics in Puerto Rico can be more than complicated. In fact, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in general presidential elections, like the one happening this fall. Instead, they'll have to make their voice heard in the primaries alone — but voting in the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico might have just gotten a lot more difficult.
The island's Democratic primary will take place on Sunday, June 5. On that day, Puerto Ricans will vote to allocate the 60 pledged delegates up for grabs ahead of this summer's Democratic National Convention. Although important for Puerto Ricans, those 60 delegates probably won't make or break either candidate's race at this point. As of Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by nearly 300 pledged delegates and was widely expected to win her party's nomination. Still, Sanders' supporters have raised a red flag ahead of Sunday's primary in the Caribbean.
On Friday, El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported that the number of polling places for the upcoming Democratic presidential primary had been reduced from 1,510 to 455. Roberto Prats, the leader of the Democratic party in Puerto Rico, explained that the decision came as a result of the large number of resources needed for administering several local elections scheduled for the same day. Speaking in Spanish, Prats said that the local elections created "an enormous competition for the election officials and all of the electoral apparatus." Sanders' supporters aren't satisfied.
It's important to note, which Prats did on Friday, that the Democratic primary will still have about four times as many polling places as the Republican primary back in March. In that contest, there were only 110 polling places available. Still, fewer polling places could spell trouble for Sanders on the island territory, where Clinton been long believed to be favored by voters and leaders.
One of those leaders who favors Clinton appears to be Prats. Prats has previously spoken in support of Clinton, and she has counted him in her court for the current election along with other Puerto Rican political figures. He even co-chaired her 2008 primary campaign in Puerto Rico and co-authored a book on that campaign.
Prats and his party organization did not officially make the decision to close the polling places — at least not on their own. According to El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico's election commission finalized the decision. Either way, Sunday's primary is likely the last major opportunity for Puerto Rico's voters to have a definitive say in this year's presidential election.