Friday, March 10, 2006

Elections Day El Salvador

International observer team from Iglesia Angicana de El Salvador ready to head to the polls

Left: A man, Jose Humberto, was denied the right to vote because of the poor condition of this identifying document, even though his name, picture, birthdate, and other vitals were in the elections roster.

Left: Jose Humberto's info posted on the board

Above: Interviewed by the Co-Latino. According to a Site Boss, 4 others were denied suffrage at this site alone (the last name begins with "A" site for the Soyapango area) because of the poor condition of their DUI's, the Documento Unico de Identidad.

"The Anglican International Elections Observer Team," consisting of Amy and our friends Jeff and Noah, after a perfunctory certification and training process on Friday, headed out on Sunday to observe the process of Salvadoran democracy in Soyapango, where members of Amy's church would be voting. There were 11 different voting sites in Soyapango, one of the largest municipalities in the greater San Salvador area, and we stuck to one-- the site for people whose last names begin with "A". The process went a lot more smoothly than I anticipated-- our site had about 40 different tables, each table with a multi-partisan group of officials each with their job to do in assisting the citizens assigned to that table to vote (including checking the roster, taking the citizen's DUI, passing DUI's and grease pencils to the other officials, marking the citizens thumb black once he or she has voted, and making sure the citizen deposits the municipal and legislative assembly ballots in the corresponding pink or yellow box, etc.). The counting process was even more interesting, as each table went through the procedures for counting their ballots, invalidating unused ballots, and filling out the official "acta" stating how many ballots were received for each party.
In some ways the process is more simple and direct than voting in the U.S. (especially in California, with our obscure ballot initiatives and voting for officials of whose exact responsibilities I'm often unsure), and participation is definatley better-- this election had a better than 50% voter turn-out. In some ways, it is more nit-picky, like many things in El Salvador that have to do with bureacracy and procedure (see the photos of the man who was unable to vote because his DUI was in poor condition). And in some ways, it felt much more significant, because of the recent struggles and lives lost to obtain the level of democracy that does exist here. (Although Noah reminded me that universal suffrage has not always been a given in the U.S., either.)
The results? ARENA, the "offical" party of the president, which was in control during the war and has had control of the presidency ever since, and the FMLN, the party of the former guerilla, were neck-in-neck, both in the municipalities and in the National Assembly. The hotly contested mayorship of San Salvador is still being contested-- Bush-Gore style-- and we are awaiting the official results. I did feel like our vigilant presence at the "A" site in Soyapango made some small difference-- an inlegal ARENA flag behind a table official was removed, our opinion was listened to in debated cases, and somehow people got the message a little more deeply that the process of democracy matters-- not only to Salvadorans, but to their friends in the rest of the world as well.
-posted by Amy and Vince

Right.: All three of these contested on the elections rosters votes were allowed.

Above Left: This vote, apparently for ARENA, was thrown out. Voters are supposed to place an X on the flag of the party they wish to vote for, which lead to some comical advertisements where the advertiser's party flag was crossed out in the ads.

A young FMLN supporter

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