Salvadorans know they can vote from outside

By Carmen Rodriguez, Washington DC

Last week, the Legislature, From El Salvador, approved amendments to the law that allow Salvadorans abroad participate in the election of deputies and mayors from countries where they reside.

The approval, He represented a victory for the organization Brother Close, working in the United States in favor of the vote abroad and now leads the work for electronic voting is also approved for the Salvadoran diaspora.

further, allies of President Bukele, celebrate these reforms because it could help them fill out deputies and mayors with candidates of the newly formed party, New ideas.

But nevertheless, the vast majority of Salvadorans living outside their country and can participate in elections since 2014, They do not know they can vote and have no information on the process to be followed to register before elections, allowing them to vote from abroad.

In an investigation by Voice of Diaspora in the metropolitan area of ​​the DMV, Washington Maryland y Virginia alrededor de 50 Salvadorans interviewed claimed to know about the electoral process. Only a Salvadoran said he knew, but he added that this process is not accessible to all.

Because they have little information at your fingertips on voting abroad, Salvadorans pay little interest to the electoral process of their country and consider them little benefit they can elect deputies or mayors, because politicians do not work for the Salvadoran diaspora.

“How you can vote from here (U.S) and since when is it?”, Mario Campos responded, to ask about the vote for Salvadorans abroad. Campos lives in the area since the DMV 14 years.

From the 2014 the possibility for more than two and a half million Salvadorans living abroad to participate in the presidential election opened. But nevertheless, in the last election of the 2019, solo 3,808, of 5,948 Salvadorans registered in the system, They cast their vote.

“The truth, I have heard, but I've never been interested in voting because I do not know how or what I need to do. I do not know if they consulates, if no embassy… I am not informed, well…”, said Miguel Esquivel.

“I heard that from the vote abroad, but I do not understand. I do not know what to do, I do not know how it's done or if the votes come to the country of truth. So, as much of it and work hard, I have not been interested in knowing more”, He added Alfredo Navas.

Few information

On the other hand, Salvadorans who know about the process, say that everything is very complicated; well, nor the Foreign Ministry, nor the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), nor the Salvadoran Government, or organizations from the United States advocate voting abroad, they provide the necessary information.

“We have within our reach the right information to tell us the dates we have to sign up or how to do to sign up to the process. And then, to receive the ballot and documentation, There are other complications”, said Alejandro Navarro.

In order to exercise the vote from abroad, Salvadorans must have identification, DUI, with the direction residing, in the country where they are. Renew this document, update or make the process to obtain it costs time and $60.

“Since coming to the country, over ten years, I do not renewed my DUI. I recently wanted to ask, but just think I have to go away, driving an hour to spend all day there and that I did not give it the same day, I have not done to go. I can not lose a full day of work and all manner, I do not want to vote because they do not know how to do to vote”, said Marvin Aguilar.

The DUI is issued in El Salvador and sent to the consulate which has been requested period of several weeks. Consul Woodbridge, Virginia, Guillermo Olivo, It recognizes that a day consulted for any procedure, is a work day that his compatriots lose.

“One day here, is a work day that our brothers lose. Many travel from afar to come to consulates and one day here (at the consulate) It represents one day their income forgone. They invest time and money when applying for service at consulates”, said Olivo.

Some community leaders working on some issues of interest of the Salvadoran community, as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), They consider the lack of interest of the community lies in little or no work done Salvadoran politicians to support them on issues of interest, as related to the immigration issue.

“We have recently been on the job for TPS, seeking alternatives and support. Since we began the struggle for TPS we have not had support from politicians of the country, most of the work, We have made Salvadorans who live here together with organizations like the TPS Alliance”, said Cecilia Martinez, Salvadoran resident of New York.

Vote abroad

Once elections approach the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) opens the process and enables an online page for Salvadorans outside register in the register.

To register online, must be part of the electoral register of the country. further, applicants must have current DUI, with residence address abroad and they should not have given up the Salvadoran, this should be checked with an affidavit attached to the documentation required by the TSE.

DUI with management abroad is invalid in El Salvador and applying for a document with the US address, the document that has the national leadership, ie somewhere in the country of origin, this effect loses.

Once the form is completed online, This should be printed, scanned and upload it to the website where you made the inscription. Once a finished this, registered Salvadorans receive confirmation or a message with the observations of the TSE, within five days.

“I tried several times to register, but the site always said it was saturated or try later. A phone called the consulate for assistance or ask some questions and never answered me. I asked for help after a niece and when we get to the site, time had passed and I was not voting”, says Maria Cerros.

Confirmed that all right this, The voter receives a manila envelope with the ballot type and other documents must be returned. But nevertheless, before they can reach the hands of stakeholders the process is interrupted.

“Envelopes are large and here, mailboxes buildings where one receives the mails are small. As the envelopes can not be folded and how people spend most of the day in their work, the postman leaves the envelope if no one is at home. So, mail leave a note for the person to seek that go on to the post office”, said Luis Reyes.

Due to tight work schedules and distances, those who fail to register and who are issued documentation, but they do not receive it in the place where they reside, They not cast their votes because they do not have time to collect post offices.

According to data recently published by El Diario de Hoy in El Salvador, of the 3,808 votes cast abroad, only 64.2% of those votes were valid.