Bernie Sanders may have suppressed the vote in Puerto Rico, with an official coming forward on Sunday to accuse his campaign of requesting a massive cut in polling places that ultimately led to lines of several hours for voters.
The U.S. territory cast ballots on Sunday for the Democratic primary, one that Hillary Clinton was expected to win by a wide margin. After her big win on Saturday in the small territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands — defeating Bernie Sanders by more than 70 points and taking all seven possible delegates — Clinton is at the edge of crossing the threshold to become the presumptive Democratic nominee.
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But it could take several hours to find out just how much Clinton wins by, as election officials in Puerto Rico expected to wait a long time to finish counting ballots. Voters were in line for up to two hours, the result of a sharp cut in polling places, The Hill reported.
The commonwealth initially had 1,510 polling locations. But it announced last month that the number of polling locations would be cut to 455 for the Sunday primary. Robert Prats, president of the Democratic Party on the island, said the 455 locations are four times more than the number of polling locations open in the Republican primary in March.
Local officials reported that at some polling places, counting of ballots didn’t even start until after 6 p.m. — a full three hours after the polls were supposed to close.
When word of the poll reductions first spread, many Bernie Sanders supporters online accused Hillary Clinton’s camp of orchestrating the move in order to suppress voters. There have been widespread conspiracy theories that Clinton’s backers and Clinton herself have been responsible for a series of voting irregularities, from closed poll places in Arizona to voters taken off the rolls in Brooklyn.
There was no evidence to connect Clinton to any of these — and in fact there was often clear evidence of local election boards and state legislatures behind the moves — but it didn’t stop Bernie Sanders supporters from alleging that Clinton was committing massive election fraud.
Some even pointed to exit poll discrepancies as a sign that Clinton was committing state-by-state election fraud. One blogger, Richard Charnin, gained popularity by claiming that the exit polls were proof that Clinton was “stealing” the election. But experts rebuffed these claims as well, noting that exit polling in the United States is far from accurate and used as a way to gauge demographics rather than as a check against election results.
But on Sunday, for the first time, there was evidence of one party directly intervening to reduce poll places — and it was allegedly Bernie Sanders who did it. Nate Cohn of the New York Times tweeted that it was actually Sanders who asked for a reduction in polling places as they did not have sufficient volunteers to fill their role of monitoring voting counts.
Odd reporting on MSNBC: Sanders requested lower number of poll places in Puerto Rico, bc they had insufficient volunteers to monitor count
There had already been hints of frustration from the Vermont Senator’s Puerto Rico campaign staff to Sanders himself. During a visit to the island in May, Bernie Sanders was met with complaints from staff and volunteers regarding the resources devoted to the race there, MSNBC reported.
Bernie Sanders has not yet responded to the reports that his campaign asked for a reduction in polling places in Puerto Rico.
[Photo by Ron Jenkins]