Could Ranked Choice Voting Solve the Two-Party Loop in Puerto Rico?

By RepresentWomen on March 30, 2021

By Angie Gomez

Since the first local elections in 1948, politics in Puerto Rico have long been defined by two political parties, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and the New Progressive Party (PNP), with smaller, third parties being largely locked out of leadership positions. In total, 13 governors have led the island, and all have come from either the PPD or PNP. Six governors have been elected from the PPD, including the first woman to hold the position, Sila María Calderón. From the PNP, six have also been elected but after former governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned in 2019, Wanda Vázquez assumed the office and became the first woman governor from the PNP. 

In recent years, the growing partisan tensions between the PPD and PNP have become impossible to ignore. Despite the current economic crisis, which governance from both parties have contributed to, when it comes to election season red is red and blue is blue. Implementing ranked choice voting (RCV) as the electoral system would not only encourage healthy competition between all parties, but it could also help ease tension among supporters as candidates look for common ground rather than focus on divisive appeals. 


Along with more positive and issue-focused campaigns, implementing RCV in Puerto Rico would give third party and independent candidates a better chance at being elected. Popular support for third party candidates has grown in recent election cycles and can be built upon with RCV. Despite constant scrutiny and blatant misogyny, independent candidate for governor Alexandra Lúgaro made history by obtaining 11.12% of the votes in 2016 and once again in 2020 as the Citizens’ Victory Movement (MVC) candidate with 14.21%.  Juan Dalmau from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) brought in historic numbers for the party as he came in 4th with 13.72% of the votes in 2020 and passed the 100,000 mark. This increase in vote share is made even more stark when compared to Dalmau’s run in 2012, in which he won only 2.52% of the votes. 


The 2020 election results were particularly gripping due to the low turnout of 52.84% compared to the turnout in 2016, 55.45% and 2012, 78.1%; yet proximity of Pedro Pierluisi (PNP) and Charlie Delgado’s (PPD) votes, as well as Lúgaro (MVC) and Dalmau’s (PIP) close results. Current governor Pierluisi won the elections with 32.93% of the vote, a mere plurality. Under RCV, no candidate would have won in the first round, the lowest vote getter would have been eliminated and votes would be reallocated to the second-choice indicated on ballots; a process which would continue until a candidate won a majority (50% +1) of the votes cast. 


The winner-take-all, plurality system which prevails in Puerto Rico is limiting competition, diversity and resulting in leaders who fail to represent the majority of citizens. Adopting and implementing ranked choice voting would help to solve these crises of representation as Puerto Rico sets out to solve the island’s economic and social issues, and resolve its status with the United States. 


Angie is a Spring 2021 communications intern for RepresentWomen. She is currently a graduate student at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico studying Public Relations and Integrated Communications. Hear more from Angie @AGCampiz.