Elections in Puerto Rico:
Summary of November 5, 1996 General Election Results

Home ]  [ 1996 Election ]  [ Español ]

The New Progressive Party (PNP) retained control of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico executive and legislative branches of government, and of a majority of the Island's 78 municipalities in the General Election held on November 5, 1996.  Dr. Pedro Rosselló, leader of the PNP and Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, secured a decisive victory by obtaining 1,006,331 votes (51.1% of the votes cast for Governor) against 875,852 votes (44.5%) cast for the Mayor of San Juan, Héctor Luis Acevedo, nominated by the Popular Democratic Party (PPD).  Representative David Noriega-Rodríguez, who ran for Governor on the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) ticket, received 75,305 votes (3.8%).  Pedro Roselló scored a majority of 130,479 votes over Héctor Luis Acevedo, for a 6.6% lead out of a total of 1,967,705 votes cast for the office of Governor of Puerto Rico. Both in relative and absolute terms, the vote for Dr. Rosselló - the first ever to exceed a million votes in Puerto Rico's political history - was the highest ever scored by the PNP, his margin of victory being the largest ever achieved by his party:  for the first time, the PNP won in all of the Island's eight Senate districts.

In the race for the position of Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress, former Governor Carlos Romero-Barceló, the incumbent Commissioner and PNP candidate, defeated Celeste Benítez, the PPD candidate, by 69,606 votes, or 3.6% out of 1,956,379 votes cast for the office.

As in the 1992 election, the vote for Carlos Romero-Barceló was below the total polled by Pedro Rosselló.

Out of 1,877,541 straight-ticket ballots, the PNP won 963,538 (51.3%), the PPD 855,960 (45.6%) and the PIP 58,044 (3.1%).  A total of 33,404 split-ticket votes were cast, of which 14,725 were won by the PNP, against 6,206 for the PPD and 12,473 for the PIP. The votes cast under party symbols, or party-ticket votes - the aggregation of straight- and split-ticket votes - reached a total of 1,910,946, of which the PNP received 978,263 (51.2%), the PPD 862,166 (45.1%) and the PIP 70,517 (3.7%); 51,223 electors voted for specific candidates rather than for parties. Additionally, 4,522 null votes and 4,887 blank ballots were tallied. Out of 2,380,676 registered voters, 1,981,153 voted in the election, for a turnout rate of 83.2%.

The 1996 elections did not bring about significant changes in the party makeup of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, where the PNP maintained both in the Senate and the House of Representatives the large majorities won in 1992.  In the Senate, the PNP lost both seats in the Ponce Senate District to the PPD, but won from the PPD the second Guayama Senate District seat.  In the House of Representatives, the PPD defeated the PNP in House Districts 23 and 32, but lost House Districts 16, 29 and 35 to the PNP.  As such, the PNP elected a total of 19 Senators (13 from the districts and six at-large), the PPD seven (three from the districts and four at-large), and the PIP one at-large.  In the House of Representatives, the PNP won 37 seats (31 from the districts and six at-large), the PPD 13 (9 from the districts and four at-large) and the PIP one at-large.

Since the majority party, the PNP, won more than two-thirds of the seats in the Senate as well as in the House, Article III, Section 7 of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Constitution - which prescribes that in the event the majority party receives less than two-thirds of the vote for Governor, the number of Senators and Representatives shall be increased until the minority parties reach a total of nine Senators and 17 Representatives - was invoked. The seats assigned to the minorities are then distributed in proportion to the number of votes obtained by the gubernatorial candidate of each minority party, relative to the total number of votes cast for the gubernatorial candidates of the minority parties.

In the Senate, the proportional allocation of minority seats gave the PPD eight and the PIP one, whereas in the House, the PPD was entitled to 16 seats and the PIP to one. Since the PPD had already elected 13 Representatives and seven Senators, it was awarded three additional seats in the House, and one in the Senate. Pursuant to the constitutional arrangements, the additional PPD seat in the Senate went to its defeated candidate for Senator at-large with the highest vote total; likewise, the first two additional House seats allocated to the party in the House of Representatives went to its two defeated candidates for Representative at-large, while the third and last additional seat was awarded to its House District 35 candidate, who obtained the highest percentage of votes among defeated PPD House district candidates.

It should be pointed out that in the 1996 election, legislative offices were voted  on a paper ballot separate from the statewide or Commonwealth ballot, set aside for the offices of Governor and Resident Commissioner.  In the legislative ballot vote, there were 320,615 split-ticket votes and votes for specific candidates, as well as 23,101 blank or void ballots; in the statewide ballot, there were 84,627 split-ticket votes and votes for specific candidates, as well as 9,409 blank or void ballots.

Finally, the outcome of the municipal races did not bring about significant changes either:  as in the 1992 election, the PNP won the mayoralties of 54 municipalities, against 24 won by the PPD.  Nonetheless, seven municipalities which had elected PPD mayors in 1992 - Cabo Rojo, Coamo, Culebra, Las Marías, Quebradillas, San Germán and Trujillo Alto - elected PNP mayors in 1996, while seven municipalities which had chosen PNP mayors in 1992 - Adjuntas, Ceiba, Jayuya, Lares, Peñuelas, Santa Isabel and Yabucoa - selected PPD mayors in 1996.

With the exception of Bayamón, the PPD retained control of all the municipalities with more than one hundred thousand inhabitants, including the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, where former Secretary of State Sila María Calderón was elected Mayor, decisively defeating the PNP candidate, House of Representatives Speaker Zaida "Cucusa" Hernández, and Irma Rodríguez, the PIP candidate.  In addition, the PPD defeated the PNP in the vote for the San Juan Municipal Assembly, which had remained under PNP control in the 1988 and 1992 general elections.