Elections in Puerto Rico:
Triple-Cross Ballots in the 2004 General Election

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Illustration of a 2004 triple-cross or three-mark Commonwealth election ballot. Votes cast in the manner shown here, that is under the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) logo, but in favor of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) candidates for Governor of Puerto Rico and Resident Commissioner - the so-called "pivazos" - constituted the overwhelming majority of these ballots, tabulated as valid votes on election night, but still a matter of controversy, as they were decisive in Puerto Rico's closest election since 1980.

Although triple-cross election ballots were not disputed in the 1996 and 2000 general elections, according to information published on Friday, December 3, 2004 by the New York City Spanish-language newsdaily "El Diario/LA PRENSA" - see "Informe erróneo en choque de tribunales" - the New Progressive Party (PNP) insisted such ballots were void, while the PPD, the PIP, the Commonwealth Elections Commission (CEE) and the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico accepted triple-cross ballots as valid split-ticket votes. The U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico sought to retain jurisdiction over these ballots, but on Wednesday, December 15, 2004 the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico had jurisdiction over the disputed split-ticket votes, and shortly thereafter the latter reaffirmed its previous ruling.

Finally, in October 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a separate case from a group of voters that challenged the validity of the triple-cross or three-mark ballots.

According to the CEE, the distribution of the split-ticket votes in controversy in the 2004 general election was as follows:

   Party Insignia       Governor   
   Party    Votes    %       Candidate    Votes    %   
   Popular Democratic    326    4.8       Aníbal Acevedo Vilá    6,039    89.1   
   New Progressive    800    11.8       Pedro Rosselló    335    4.9   
   Puerto Rican Independence    5,650    83.4       Rubén Berríos Martínez    334    4.9   
   Others                         68    1.0   
   Total    6,776                   6,776         

It should be noted that Section 3.001 of the Puerto Rico Electoral Law defines a "Principal Party" as:

"any noncoalesced party that in the column corresponding to its insignia obtains no less than seven (7) percent of the total number of votes cast for all the party insignias in the preceding general election, or that obtains straight ballots in the preceding general election for a total of no less than three (3) percent of the total number of straight ballots cast for all the parties; or whose candidate for Governor received no less than five (5) percent of the total number of votes cast for all the candidates to said office in the preceding election."

As such, an elector may cast a vote under the insignia of a political party - but not in favor of any of its candidates - so that it may attain the percentage minimum required by law in order to retain principal party status.

In the 2004 general election, the PIP secured a larger number of party insignia votes than votes for Governor. Nonetheless, it lost its principal party status because the results it obtained did not fulfill any of the three requirements set forth by law, as detailed below:

  Requirement    PIP
   %    Principal Party

Required    Attained?
  Straight Ballots    43,399    2.3    3%    No  
  Governor    54,551    2.7    5%    No  
  Party Insignia    57,511    3.0    7%    No  

Consequently, the PIP re-registered as a party by petition - during the 2004 election recount process - by filing with the Commission petitions signed by a number of electors of no less than five (5) percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for the office of Governor in the 2004 general election.