Election Day: Unofficial Observations
El Salvador held elections on February 4, 2024, and, in breaking with a tradition of many years, this time I was not a credentialed international election observer.
During previous elections, I served on a team of national and international observers organized by the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. Although the church did not make an observation plan for 2024, the role of observers from the Salvadoran citizenry, political parties, government agencies and international organizations continues to promote trust and transparency in electoral proceedings. Observers have noted that the election day process in El Salvador has been, for the most part, free and fair over the last many years.
In the days surrounding the February 4th election, Salvadoran and international media have widely reported on and analyzed the presumed election of Nayib Bukele to a second presidential term, the constitutionality of his election, and the consolidation of power for his political party, Nuevas Ideas. (I use the word "presumed" because official election return data is not yet available due to various failures in the tabulation system set up by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.)
As a non-credentialed observer this year, I will leave the political and legal analysis of this election to the experts. However, I am happy to share a few unofficial election day observations with this brief election day scrapbook:
|On our way to church, we (my husband, our pastor and I) stopped at a school in Las Flores. Young people from church carried out a variety of duties at local polling sites, and the pastor gave encouragement to those who were working outside. (Only credentialed observers are allowed inside.) At this site, a couple of our young friends gathered exit poll data from a random sampling of voters. These exit poll numbers allowed Bukele to declare victory early on election night - before most of the votes were actually counted.
In the photo above, a family of proud Salvadoran expats tells the pollsters they traveled from the US, carrying their flags, to cast their votes in person in the community of their origin.
Our friends described their experience as first-time poll workers: they left their homes at 3:30 AM, walked 30 minutes to this site, worked, voted, and returned home after 1 AM the next morning. (Their cousin who was a vote counter did not return home until 6 AM.) Fortunately at this site the political parties provided some food over the course of the long day; other sites were not so lucky.
|Traffic. That's my observation.
|Walking to a neighborhood voting site is better than sitting in voter traffic.
|I was curious about these election observers at the Albert Einstein University polling site, and then noticed the beautiful sunlight shining through the trees.