SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico's (search) congressional envoy who favors the island's status as a U.S. territory narrowly won a recount in the governor's race, election officials announced Thursday.
Anibal Acevedo Vila (search) of the Popular Democratic Party (search) garnered 961,512 votes compared to 958,328 Pedro Rossello (search), who was governor from 1993-2001 and favors statehood for the Caribbean island.
Officials said they will not certify the result until next week because about 2,000 votes from three ballot boxes in a San Juan suburb have yet to be counted. The number of votes, however, will not affect the outcome.
Election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vila wtih 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent for Rossello, a margin narrow enough to force an automatic recount.
The disputed election deepened bitter divisions in the Caribbean island of 4 million people who have argued for decades about whether to become a U.S. state, remain a U.S. commonwealth or move toward independence. Another 3 million people of Puerto Rican descent live on the U.S. mainland.
Rossello and his New Progressive Party (search) had mounted a court challenge of thousands of ballots favoring Acevedo Vila.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled last week that a federal judge on the island does not have jurisdiction over the ballots, effectively putting an end to Rossello's efforts to throw out thousands of disputed ballots favoring his rival.
Puerto Rico's Supreme Court already declared the votes valid in an earlier lawsuit.
Rossello disputed ballots in which voters not only marked Acevedo Vila's name, but also marked 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" and has asked it to reconsider. His supporters are also considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.