Monday, November 10, 2014

More court-ordered election reforms

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court has struck again in favor of increasing the rights of individual voters in opposition to the power of political parties.   The Chamber handed down a ruling on November 5 striking a provision of the electoral code which prohibited "cross voting" in elections for deputies in the National Assembly.    Before the court's ruling a voter who voted for one candidate could not cross over to vote for any other candidates of the other parties or an independent candidate.

The FMLN criticized the ruling as weakening political parties, and called for its members to vote a party ticket to vote for all deputy candidates of the FMLN.   A deputy from ARENA said her party would not oppose cross-voting and would not tell their sympathizers that they must vote "por bandera".   Edwin Zamora,  the ARENA candidate for mayor of San Salvador said he favored an even bigger step in which each deputy had a single district, rather than a slate of deputies for the whole department (24 for San Salvador) in which the top vote getters across the whole department are the ones which enter the National Assembly.

Separate from the legal correctness of the unanimous decision, the presiding judge dissented on the question of whether the ruling should be effective for the elections on March 1, 2015.   The Chamber has been criticized for changing the rules at the last minute with little time for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to prepare.    The TSE has asked the national government for an extra $4 million to publicize the changes, and to pay poll workers extra because vote counting will last later into the night.  Having observed Salvadoran elections, this will make counting ballots much more of a challenge for the citizen-manned voting tables.   You can expect that results will be slow in coming that night, compared to the speed of the presidential election results.

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