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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Voting - Ecuador Style!

I have NEVER understood the United States of America's structure for elections and voting.  It's too confusing.  It's WAY too expensive.  It's dumb.  It should be like everything else....whoever gets the most votes, WINS.   If Edna gets the most votes in the County Fair pie crust contest, Edna wins.   If Clarence runs for Mayor of Tuckaho and gets the majority vote, he wins.  If the residents of the Whispering Pines retirement home for elderly gays vote on an initiative to allow thongs in the swimpool area and the majority says 'Yes', then the initiative passes.

Why isn't it that simple for Presidential elections??   Nooooo.   Gotta start campaigning more than a YEAR before elections.  Have you noticed the campaigning starting gun has crept further and more distant from the actual election date like Christmas used to make its entry after Thanksgiving, then moved back to Halloween, and now is lurking around Back to School days???

Sickening.

Then there's the big-ass conventions wasting hundreds of millions of dollars.  Delegates.  Schmelegates.

Let's take a look at voting Ecuadorian-style.  Something I think makes (common) sense.  Something me thinks would cause the system in the US of A to implode.

First off, I'm NOT an expert on the whole process.  I'm writing from a average-dano perspective with a modest amount of in tell E gents and general knowledge of what's what.

In Ecuador, a country the size of Colorado, with approximately 15 million people, the process is straightforward.

If you want to run for President, you cannot start campaigning until 45 days before the election.  Did you read that right?  Did that sink in?  FOR TEE FIVE DAYS!!!

Ok, ok....don't beat me yet.  I realize EC is much smaller than the US of A, so one might realize you need more time to galavant around the country the size of the US of A than you do in EC.  Got it.

Then, when voting day comes, there are extra restrictions.  First....3 days before voting day is a cooling off period.  No campaigning.  Secondly, no booze.  ARRRRGGGHHHH!!   'They' don't want you voting drunk, so they impose a 3-day ban on the sales of booooooze.   Bars/discos must close.  Of course, any idiot knows they can buy an extra supply of boooooze before the dry period to carry them through...which is exactly what I did. HELLOOOOO!!!

WHO can vote?  This has tested my patience lately.  Many gringos rely on social media (gag) to gather their info.  Facebook (hurl) is an example.  Someone will post a question such as 'How do I know if I can vote or not?'.  Oi vey.  The answers want to make me again...hurl.  The pour soul asking the question on Facebook has no clue if the people that respond are hatchet murderers, gluttons for their 15 minutes of fame, escaped convicts (MER), and/or basing their answer on something they experienced 5 years ago!!!  GADS PEOPLE!!!!

The question was posted in GringoPost several times.  I, idiotically, chose to chime in with what I thought was a simple solution to all the wildly varied answers.  GO TO THE SOURCE.  I responded and advised readers to simply to go to a myriad of stations set up around the ciy at grocery stores, college campuses, government buildings, etc where a human being staffs a folding table with a computer connected to the CNE (the national electoral controlling agency).  All you had to do is provide your Cedula number (Ecuadorian ID #) to that person to look up on the CNE database to see whether you were qualified to vote or not vote.  Very simple, right?  Apparently not.

Misinfomation swirled like the waters around the Titanic.  People started bashing me.  One individual challenged the notion of foreigners voting.  She indicated 'we' might only be voting for our own personal interests.  Hmmm...and that isn't the case in the US of A?  She seemed to think we don't know the language, therefore shouldn't vote.  Hmmm....some of us are very fluent.  She didn't consider how long we may have lived here nor how informed we might be.  She just assumed we didn't know the language, are ill-informed, and haven't lived here long enough to be educated enough (or earned the right) to vote.  Yet, back in the US of A, apparently none of these are factors there.  Ill-informed idiots can vote, no probemo.  But, in EC, people who live in shacks in the hills with no TV, no internet, no newspaper, etc and probably rely on gossip and neighborly conversations to come up with their decision on who to vote for....perfectly fine for them to vote.  Kinda hypocritical,  no?

The 'rules'.  You must be a citizen (not true).  Everyone is REQUIRED to vote (not true).  If you don't vote, someone can use your name to vote (not true).  You must've lived here 5 years (debatable).  The last one really got my goat.  After all, just exactly HOW do you determine a person has lived here for 5 years?  Their passport entry date?  What if it was just for a tourism trip?  Their cedula date?  The person could've lived here a year before they got their cedula!  The date they obtained their residency visa?  So, that means time lived here before getting their RV doesn't count?  In essence, very vague.

My over-arching point was this:  If the CNE says you can vote, then who is to question the very institution who dictates who can and who can't vote for cripes sake?  Some were saying I (and others) were committing a crime by voting if I/we hadn't lived here for 5 years.  My answer:  If the CNE, the institution that defines who can/can't vote tells me I can, then I CAN.  Period.  F. O.

In Ecuador, we have a very common-sense approach to voting.  In essence, every citizen is required to vote.  Of course, there are exceptions making voting optional, such as (not a complete list, so don't jump on my ass):
  • Those over 65
  • Those between 16-18
  • Those who are illiterate
  • Those who are incapacitated
  • Those in the military
Clearly, this makes most citizens responsible to be a part of he decisioning process versus an environment where 30% of the country decides for the other 70%.

Okay, I've mentioned how the campaign period is limited unlike another country where people are savagely bombarded with mind-boggling @#$%^! for a year or more...to the point I would commit hari cari.  

Come voting day, each person is assigned a voting location.  Most of the voting locations are schools.  The classrooms are used to compartmentalize groups of people.  For example, I went to room 13.  Room 13 were for those with last names between Fargurkles and Gonzalesstein.  Men went one place, women another (dunno why).  Each room had an armed military guard overseeing the process.

When you enter, you must provide your Ecuadorian photo Id card (aka Cedula) to verify you are indeed who you are and yes, indeedy, you can vote.   They KEEP your Id.

Then you're given the ballot and you go vote in a pseudo private booth.  No problem with your SO or kids accompanying you.  After all, you are showing the importance of voting to your kids, right?

Once you've marked your ballot, you fold it and slip it through the slot of a large box.  Then, you walk back to the desk to retrieve your ID and receive a peel-off pre-printed sticker with your name and ID on it and that is your proof that you voted.

Some of those Facebookers and GringoPost responders pleaded with people to vote because, if they didn't, someone else could vote using their name.  This is a perfect example of the oh-so-common BS responses that others will read and presume it's the Gospel.  How the heck could some stranger vote under someone elses name without having the ID with the name and PHOTO of that person matching their mug??   

The entire process, for me, took about 15 minutes.  Granted, I rode my motorcycle to the location which allowed me to skirt around traffic and nab a parking space directly in front.  Traffic was a bit horrid, but transit police were out in force directing traffic.

Oh, I didn't mention....voting day is on a Sunday.  Smart, since most businesses are closed on Sundays and it made it easier for everyone to participate.

Now....how do we determine who is the winner?  Very simple.  Very common-sense.

In this particular presidential election, we had 8 candidates (and their VP's) to choose from.  It doesn't involve multi-million dollar conventions (parties), delegates, caucuses, or electoral colleges.  Just 1 for 1 votes.  

Whoever gets the majority vote (ie; over 50%) wins.  

If a candidate doesn't get more than 50%, then he/she must have at least 40% and the next highest contender must be at least 10% further away for that person to win.   Example:  Candidate A got 42% of the vote (the most of all votes).  Clearly, not a majority since it's not over 50%.  Candidate B got 29% of the vote.  That's 13% less.  Since it is more than 10% difference, Candidate A wins.

If a candidate has, let's say, 45% and the next closest contender has 36% (only 9% less) then they will have a runoff election 6 weeks later between those two parties.

Simple Simon.

Like many countries, the term for President is 4 years and they can serve only 2 terms.  Our current president, Rafael Correa, came into office after several presidents had been ousted in the 1990's.  He served the remaining 2 years of the last ousted president.  Then, he ran again, and won a 4 year term. He ran again, and won another 4 year term...for a total of 10 years served.

Personally, I don't understand why there are term limits.  After all, if a person is good and you want them to stay around, why do you HAVE to get rid of them?  If they're lousy, fine....vote them out. The VOTE is the mechanism for limiting someone.

Correa may have wanted to stay on for yet another term to continue his visions of improving Ecuador, but he had promised his wife they would move to Belgium (her home country) when he stepped down.  I'm sure the Mrs would not be a happy camper if he continued on as President of Ecuador!!!

Fast forward....days after I wrote the above.  Elections results came in.  No one got more than 50%. One man (Lenin) almost hit 40% but no spaghetti, therefore, a runoff is in store between him and Lasso, the closest runner-up (about 10% away).

Check out this article from Cuenca High Life which explains what will happen next.  Notice they have LIMITATIONS on how much $$$ each of the final 2 candidates can spend in 'Phase II'.  What a novel idea!

https://www.cuencahighlife.com/presidential-runoff-campaign-begins-officially-march-10-runs-20-days/

So, on April 2nd, we get to vote again, but with only TWO candidates.  Neither of which appear to be insane.  Neither have had his own TV show.  Neither have bad hair.  Neither have other countries pointing their nuclear missles at us.  And, neither have Saturday Night Live salivating at the idea of endless skits and parodies to fill the airwaves for the next 4 years.

Just sayin.....

....to be continued.....


Dano




About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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