Puerto Rican governor signs law moving Democratic primary

The downfall of one of Puerto Rico’s most powerful political dynasties

Outgoing Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed a law on Friday shifting Puerto Rico’s Democratic primary up from June to March in a push to make the island more influential in selecting the party’s nominee.

The move came hours before the embattled governor resigned following a texting scandal that triggered two weeks of protests over the governor’s management of Puerto Rico’s debt and response to Hurricane Maria.

The bill moves the Puerto Rican Democratic primary from the first Sunday in June up to the last Sunday in March in an effort to incentivize 2020 candidates to address Puerto Rican voters’ concerns, Rosselló said in a news release.

“When the Democratic primaries are held in June, sometimes the races are already decided and Puerto Rico’s primary becomes academic,” Rosselló wrote in a tweeted statement. “In changing the date to the month of March, we can directly confront and involve the Democratic presidential candidates with the subject of the political and economic inequality that extends across Puerto Rico.”

States that hold the first primaries, such as Iowa and New Hampshire, attract candidates’ attention as they look for early voter commitments and local political endorsements. The island’s primary would be the 34th Democratic primary instead of the second-to-last as a result of the new law.

While Puerto Ricans who live on the island can vote in presidential primaries, they cannot vote for president.

Rosselló added that the territory’s Republican primaries would remain on the last Sunday in February.

The governor also pointed to the law as a way to hold candidates accountable on their stances on issues related to Puerto Rico.

“This legislative measure provides us with the opportunity to put Puerto Rico on the radar of Democratic presidential candidates to encourage that they not only interest themselves in Puerto Rico’s problems, but that they also speak with clarity on their solutions and that they commit to resolve them,” he wrote.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify that Puerto Ricans who live on the island cannot vote for president.