Puerto Rico Primary Looms Smaller

Last week, in an analysis of the popular vote in the Democratic race, I quoted Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, a Puerto Rican election expert who scoffed at the widely accepted estimate here on the mainland of a turnout of 1,000,000 voters in Puerto Rico’s June 1 primary.

It’s a little remarkable in the first place that the matter of turnout by the late-voting Puerto Rico Democrats should be a topic of discussion at all. But with the expectation that Hillary Clinton will post a resounding win there, possibly erasing Barack Obama’s overall popular-vote lead under certain circumstances (i.e., counting Florida and/or Michigan), Puerto Rico has been a crucial component of any argument that the Democratic contest is still undecided.

But the one million figure is based on the astronomical turnout that marks some Puerto Rican elections that deal with the fraught issue of that island’s status, and as Alvarez-Rivera told me, that sort of intensity probably won’t spill over to a presidential primary. He suggested the real number would be around 600,000.

Yesterday he wrote back with news that reinforces his forecast: a report that Puerto Rico’s Democratic Party has asked the Commonwealth Elections Commission to cut the number of polling places by 1,000, apparently due to a failure to find poll workers.

Alvarez-Rivera’s analysis:


Now, I can tell you that the only time in recent memory there have been problems recruiting election workers was for the 2005 referendum [on statehood whether to switch to a unicameral legislature], and those problems were widely perceived as being symptomatic of voters’ lack of interest in the event – which turned out to be the case, as less than 600,000 voters took part in the referendum. With that in mind, the fact that an article like this has been published *at all* is in my view indicative that the Commission fears the primary could turn into a huge fiasco, and they’re engaging in a PR exercise to shift blame away from them: in fact, the article essentially blames the Democratic Party and specifically its commissioner for the ongoing problems.


Personally, I’m not terribly surprised about these problems. At this juncture, Sen. Obama’s nomination appears to be all but certain, and the primary is increasingly perceived as an irrelevancy – albeit a very costly one, to the tune of five million dollars. However, the Puerto Rico Democratic Party chairman is on Sen. Clinton’s camp, and it’s quite evident he wants the primary to go on nonetheless – he’s even talking about one (or more) upcoming visit(s) by Sen. Clinton herself, evidently to boost voter turnout. That said, I don’t know if the decision to go ahead with the primary is his idea or part of Hillary Clinton’s strategy to hang on to the bitter end.


UPDATE: The corrected mistake in brackets is mine, not Manuel’s.

Puerto Rico Primary Looms Smaller