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President of Puerto Rico's elections commission resigns after chaotic primary election

Juan Ernesto Dávila said he was stepping down for the well-being of his family and not because of his role in last month's shoddy election process.
Image: Electoral workers sort ballots at a tabulation center in San Juan
Electoral workers sort ballots at a tabulation center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 16, 2020.Ricardo Arduengo / Reuters

The president of Puerto Rico’s elections commission will be resigning immediately, nearly a month after a chaotic and unfinished primary forced a second round of voting in an unprecedented event for the U.S. territory.

Juan Ernesto Dávila said in a statement that he was stepping down for the well-being of his family, friends and fellow church worshippers.

“I don’t want to be a distraction at this moment in our history,” he said, denying that he was resigning because of pending lawsuits related to the delayed primary election process. He decried what he said were “lies, insults and slander” against him.

Dávila's resignation comes as top government officials have repeatedly urged him to step down following shoddy primaries on Aug. 9 when dozens of voting centers never opened due to missing or delayed ballots and countless others turned voters away because they ran out of ballots. A make-up election was then scheduled for Aug. 16.

Dávila and others blamed the problems on ballots arriving behind schedule and noted that trucks loaded with ballots and electronic voting machines didn’t leave for voting centers until the day of the primary, when normally they depart one or two days before.

Puerto Rico is 61 days away from having their general election on Nov. 3. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was not immediately clear who would replace Dávila.

In his resignation letter, obtained by Puerto Rican national newspaper El Nuevo Día, Dávila said in Spanish that he hopes "that my departure will facilitate the selection of a person to fill the position; and once selected, will carry out, together with other colleagues at the Commission, a fair and successful electoral process."

The most closely watched race in last month’s primaries was that of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which pitted veteran politician Pedro Pierluisi against Gov. Wanda Vázquez, who lost. A record six candidates will be running for governor this November.

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The Associated Press contributed.