AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Puerto Rico’s Democratic presidential primary

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — Puerto Rico will hold a Democratic presidential primary on Sunday, which will be the only occasion most registered voters on the island will have to officially weigh in on the race for the White House.

Like other U.S. territories, voters in Puerto Rico cannot vote in the general election, but they can participate in presidential primaries and send delegates to both the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer.

President Joe Biden has already won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination and faces minimal opposition on voting Sunday. The Democratic primary was originally scheduled for March 17, but party officials moved the event and implemented cost-cutting measures such as reducing the number of polling places when it became clear that Biden had blocked the nomination. The party estimates the scaled-back primary will cost less than $60,000, down from the roughly $1 million the State Elections Commission originally budgeted. Republicans in Puerto Rico scrapped their traditional primaries and instead awarded their 23 delegates to former President Donald Trump on Sunday in a caucus-style vote that included about 77% of the 1,340 eligible party officials. Trump was the only candidate on the ballot.

Although Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for president in November, they may still be able to influence the Electoral College calculations. In the 2020 general election, both the Biden and Trump campaigns had outreach efforts in Puerto Rico, hoping that voters there would in turn influence their friends and relatives on the U.S. mainland.

Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Puerto Rico to tout the Biden administration’s record in disaster response and attend a fundraiser. The trip came days after Biden launched a new effort to target Latino voters.

About 5.8 million Puerto Ricans live in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2023 Census data. About 21% of Puerto Ricans in the United States live in Florida, followed by 17% in New York and 8% in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Trump carried Florida by a margin of 3 percentage points in 2020 and 1 percentage point in 2016. The races were even closer in Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 1 percentage point in 2020 and Trump by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Biden won Puerto Rico’s 2020 primary, which was postponed twice in mid-July until the end of the Democratic primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic. He received 62% of the vote, more than Bernie Sanders, who received 15% of the vote, and Michael Bloomberg, who received 14%. Hillary Clinton had a similar performance in 2016, with 61% of the vote compared to 38% for Sanders. Clinton also won Puerto Rico in 2008, when the territory was one of the last places to vote in the marathon nomination fight between the former U.S. secretary of state and then-senator. Barack Obama.

Here’s what to expect on Sunday:

The Democratic presidential elections will be held in Puerto Rico on Sunday. Polls are open from 9am to 3pm ET.

The Associated Press will cover the Democratic presidential primaries. It’s the only contest on the ballot. Appearing on the ballot are Biden, self-help author Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, who suspended his campaign after Super Tuesday and endorsed Biden.

Puerto Rico does not register voters by party, so all voters who registered before March 29 are eligible to participate in the primaries, provided they are willing to sign a document at the ballot box declaring themselves as Democrats. Those who do not want to sign the document will not be allowed to vote.

Puerto Rico’s 55 pledged Democratic delegates will be allocated according to the national party’s standard rules. Twelve at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as well as seven PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” At stake for the eight state Senate districts are a total of 36 delegates, allocated in proportion to the voting results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to be eligible for statewide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to be eligible for delegates in that district.

Biden is the overwhelming favorite in the primaries. Early indications of him winning statewide at a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held this year could be enough to determine the statewide winner.

The AP does not make forecasts and will only declare a winner if it has been established that there is no scenario with which the underlying candidates can close the gap. If no race is called, the AP will continue to report on any newsworthy developments, such as concessions to candidates or declarations of victory. The AP will make it clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Turnout in past primaries in Democratic Puerto Rico has varied widely depending on the competitiveness of the race and other factors.

Only 6,302 votes were cast during the 2020 primaries. In 2016, Democrats in Puerto Rico cast 89,188 votes in the June 5 election, held on the penultimate day of the primaries. Nearly 387,000 votes were cast during the 2008 Obama-Clinton primary.

Voters had until March 14 to request an absentee ballot. A limited number of early ballots were available to those who qualified and applied before March 9, according to party officials. Early voting will also be offered to inmates in correctional facilities on Friday.

Polls close at 3:00 PM ET. Party officials expect to have final results around 5 p.m. ET.

As of Sunday, there are 113 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 191 days until the November general election.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.