Puerto Rico halts primary voting in centers lacking ballots

FILES - This combo of two file photos shows Pedro Pierluisi, left and Wanda Vazquez in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At left, Secretary of State Pedro Pierluisi attends his confirmation hearing at the House of Representatives on Aug. 2, 2019, and at right, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez gives an interview at La Fortaleza governor residence on Aug. 16, 2019. Both served as replacement governors in the wake of a Puerto Rican political crisis and are competing against each other for a chance to win the job in their own right as the disaster-struck U.S. territory holds primary elections on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, Files)
FILES - This combo of two file photos shows Pedro Pierluisi, left and Wanda Vazquez in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At left, Secretary of State Pedro Pierluisi attends his confirmation hearing at the House of Representatives on Aug. 2, 2019, and at right, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez gives an interview at La Fortaleza governor residence on Aug. 16, 2019. Both served as replacement governors in the wake of a Puerto Rican political crisis and are competing against each other for a chance to win the job in their own right as the disaster-struck U.S. territory holds primary elections on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, Files) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

(AP) – Puerto Rico on Sunday was forced to partially suspend voting for primaries marred by a lack of ballots as officials called on the president of the U.S. territory’s elections commission to resign.

The primaries for voting centers that had not received ballots by early afternoon are expected to be rescheduled, while voting would continue elsewhere, the commission said.

“I have never seen on American soil something like what has just been done here in Puerto Rico. It’s an embarrassment to our government and our people,” said Pedro Pierluisi, who is running against Gov. Wanda Vázquez, to become the nominee for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Meanwhile, Vázquez called the situation “a disaster” and demanded the resignation of the president of the elections commission.

“They made the people of Puerto Rico, not the candidates, believe that they were prepared,” she said. “Today the opposite was evident. They lied.”

A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's finances issued a statement saying the "dysfunctional" voting process was unacceptable and blamed it on what it said was inefficiency by the elections commission.

The unprecedented situation comes as voters ventured out amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across Puerto Rico, an island of 3.2 million people that has reported more than 12,800 probable cases, more than 8,500 confirmed cases and at least 274 deaths.

Gireliz Zambrana, a 31-year-old federal employee, worried about the number of people gathered at a voting center in Río Grande as they huddled together while waiting for it to open.