Puerto Rico:

Commonwealth Election Law and Its Application to a Political Status Referendum

HRD-90-60: Published: May 2, 1990. Publicly Released: May 2, 1990.

Additional Materials:


Linda G. Morra
(202) 512-7014


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Puerto Rico's electoral law and proposed status referendum.

GAO found that Puerto Rico's electoral law: (1) and election process was basically sound; (2) incorporated a number of safeguards and controls to protect the integrity of election results, including principal political party representation at all levels of the election process and stringent registration and voting procedures; and (3) placed limits on political campaign contributions and expenditures. GAO also found that: (1) the law only applied to candidate elections and did not extend to any referenda; (2) the rights of nonresident voters to participate in the referendum were in question; (3) legislation needed to authorize the 1991 status referendum may extend campaign contribution limits to the referendum; and (4) there were no allegations of election fraud and abuse in recent elections.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: H.R. 4765, approved August 3, 1990 by the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, specifies that the federal laws applicable to the election of Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner shall apply to the referendum. S. 244, introduced January 23, 1991, also contains a provision implementing the recommendation.

    Matter: S. 712 is not clear as to the extent to which federal law would apply to the status referendum. Because of this, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources may wish to consider amending section 101(d) of the bill to specify that federal laws applicable to the election of Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner shall apply.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 2, 2021

Feb 3, 2021

Jan 29, 2021

Jan 19, 2021

Jan 13, 2021

Dec 16, 2020

Dec 9, 2020

Dec 3, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here