Preparing for 2018 elections
There are 159 days to go until the March 4, 2018 national elections in El Salvador when the population goes to the polls to elect all the country's mayors and members of its national legislature. Election authorities hope that these elections run smoother than the last elections in 2015.
The election process for deputies to the National Assembly in 2015 was an epic failure. For weeks, the final results were unknown and eventually there was a recount ordered by the country's Supreme Court.
The problems related to the complexity of the ballots. Here was the 2015 ballot for deputies in San Salvador.
Valid ways to vote include voting for all the candidates of a party, some of the candidates, a mixture of candidates from different parties, and for independent candidates. The candidates were all running against each other for 24 at-large seats. It was the first election in which voters could vote for candidates in more than one party, and it produced great confusion in how to actually count votes.
So the Supreme Electoral Tribunal ("TSE" for its initials in Spanish) hopes to do better this year at promptly producing results. In addition, this year, for the first time, members of the polling tables must not be affiliated with any of the political parties. In the past, polling tables were staffed by representatives of the political parties. The new rule presents a challenge for the TSE because it can no longer rely on the parties to do the recruitment and ensure presence of personnel. Instead, the TSE must locate, train and feed an army of neutral people to man the polling places.
The TSE is relying on technology to help it with its mission. There is a new system of optical scanners to transmit polling results to the central office of the TSE. The TSE has created a set of online courses in an "aula virtual" (virtual classroom) to train all the participants at different levels of the electoral process. The TSE has created a smartphone app with all of the voting laws. There is also a TSE app which allows voters to check and determine where there polling place is.
The TSE has been working hard in the past three years to fix the problems of 2015, but it will still be a challenge to pull off a prompt count of all those complicated paper ballots in San Salvador.
Finally, at this point, we don't know for sure who will be the candidates in the marquee race of the election -- mayor of San Salvador. The FMLN has not officially announced that it is kicking Nayib Bukele out of the party, but all signs point in that direction. He refuses to quit the party,