The pro-statehood candidate for governor of Puerto Rico, saying he wanted to prevent an "extraordinary injustice," asked an appeals court yesterday to reconsider its ruling giving the island's Supreme Court jurisdiction over disputed ballots in the close election.
Pedro Rossello filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit asking for a rehearing, or a full hearing before the entire six-judge court.
A three-judge panel last week ruled a federal judge on the island does not have jurisdiction over the ballots -- a decision that set back Rossello's efforts to throw out thousands of disputed ballots favoring his rival, Anibal Acevedo Vila.
Puerto Rico's Supreme Court had already declared the votes valid in an earlier lawsuit.
The election has deepened divisions on the US Caribbean territory of 4 million people who have argued for decades about whether to become a US state, remain a US commonwealth, or become independent. Acevedo Vila supports keeping Puerto Rico's status as a commonwealth; Rossello wants the island to become a state.
Preliminary election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vila, of the Popular Democratic Party, narrowly leading Rossello, of the New Progressive Party, 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent.
Rossello is disputing ballots in which voters not only marked Acevedo Vila's name, but also an "x" for the tiny Independence Party.
Acevedo Vila's supporters say Puerto Rico's laws allow voters to cast "mixed votes" to support keeping the Independence Party registered while also supporting candidates from other parties.
In its Dec. 15 ruling, the appeals court said it was an abuse of discretion for a federal judge on the island to become involved in a local election dispute.
The court also found "there is no clearly articulated Commonwealth policy, much less a statute" that indicates ballots marked for Acevedo Vila and the Independence Party are invalid.
Rossello said the court's decision was "patently erroneous," saying that the Puerto Rico Election Commission changed rules governing the disputed ballots after the election.