Basic information about Nicaragua’s incredibly secure electoral system

Submitted bytortilla onDom, 17/10/2021 - 10:22

Nan McCurdy, October 17th 2021

Voting in Nicaragua

On November 7, over three million Nicaraguans will go to the polls at 13,459 polling stations in 3,100 voting centers across the country. They will vote for 90 deputies to the National Assembly, 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), President and Vice President. They are elected on one ballot for five-year terms.

The vote for president and vice president is a direct vote. The president may be elected by an absolute or relative majority of at least 45% of the valid votes, except in the case of obtaining a minimum of 35% of the valid votes that surpass the second place candidates by a minimum difference of 5 percentage points. If none of the candidates obtains the above results, a second round of elections will be held between the first two candidates.

Ninety deputies to tproportional representation< basis from party lists: 20 nationally, and 70 representing the country's 15 geographic departments and 2 autonomous regions. The National Assembly is a unicameral parliamentary system. The outgoing president and the runner-up in the last elections also hold positions as National Assembly Deputies.

The Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) serves as a forum to discuss common issues of the Central American area; and it promotes and guides the integration process and cooperation among the countries.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly elects the Magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC), which is a fourth autonomous branch of government. The SEC administers the elections according to the Constitution and electoral law.

Ten new Supreme Electoral Council magistrates were sworn in on May 6 with 60% women and a historic representation of the multi-ethnic Caribbean Coast. The magistrates elect their own Council president and vice president. President Brenda Rocha, a lawyer, is from Bonanza, North Caribbean Autonomous Region.

In May, reforms to the electoral law were passed including gender parity among electoral officials, digital auditing and traceability of voting tallies.

Also in May the SEC presented the electoral calendar for elections to be held on November 7, 2021. The official resolution exhorted parties to duly comply with the Constitution, Electoral Law, and the Foreign Agents Law, as well as show respect for ethical standards, resolutions, agreements and regulations. In line with one of the electoral reforms, parties were urged to present 50% women and 50% men in their proposals for electoral officers.

On June 6, the SEC swore in 102 people for the 15 Departmental and two Regional Electoral Councils (3 per council and 3 alternates). Out of these 17 Electoral Councils, 9 women and 8 men were appointed as presidents; and out of the 51 total council members (3 per Council), 26 are held by women and 25 by men.

The Electoral Law awards the top positions in each of these Electoral Councils to the parties with the highest percentage of the vote in the last election. In the 2016 election the FSLN and the PLC (Constitutional Liberal Party) were the top parties. Based on those results, an FSLN member is President in 9 Departmental Councils and the first member is from the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC). A PLC member is the president of 8 Departmental Councils and the first member is an FSLN party member. The second member is from another party.

The local polling station boards of 3 people (President, First member and Second Member) had to be formed by Oct. 10. There are 3,106 voting centers (usually in schools) made up of 13,459 polling stations (classrooms in the schools, so an average of 4 to 6 in each center). Your polling station is determined by your address. There are 13,459 volunteer, trained electoral police (trained in September and October), one for each polling station. Municipal Electoral Councils appoint members to each polling station. The President and first member of each polling station board alternate between the political parties that obtained the first and second place in the last general election in that polling station. The third member is from another party and the rest of the parties can designate a poll watcher in each polling station.

An impressive number of volunteers carry out Nicaragua’s elections: If you add up all the volunteers it comes to about 245,000 people, said SEC magistrate Cairo Amador: 13,459 volunteer police; 3,106 Human Rights Ombudspersons; 3 members of the board of each polling station, or 40,377 people; 1 coordinator for each voting center – 3,106 people; If each party/alliance has a poll watcher in each polling station that is 80,754. Then you have the members of the municipal, departmental and regional Electoral Councils, alternates for all positions and party officials.

The SEC and the Human Rights ombudspersons Office (PDDH), signed an agreement for human rights ombudspersons to be in each voting center. The PDDH has a vast experience accompanying previous elections. "The presence of a trained Ombudsperson in each Voting Center will be the guarantor of a culture of ethics, respect, transparency and peace," said SEC President, Magistrate Brenda Rocha.

In a show of support for their electoral system 2,825,117 Nicaraguans participated in the citizen verification days on July 24 and 25 at 3,106 voting centers to confirm or change their address. This gives an idea of the minimum number that will vote on November 7.

On August 8 the SEC published the respective electoral roll in the 3106 voting centers. Each party received a copy of the electoral roll. Each citizen may go to their polling place any day to confirm if they appear on the list.

Just in the first 7 months of 2021 the SEC completed over half million ID procedures (new, renewal and replacement of ID’s). As of September about 95% of Nicaraguans 16 and over had their ID cards. In August the SEC enabled a new service for Changes of Address or Polling Places, online. This new service, on the SEC website, was developed to strengthen and facilitate the electoral process.

The SEC reported on Sept. 22 that the definitive Electoral Roll includes 4,478,334 voters. Opinion polls show about 75% intend to vote, or some 3.35 million people.

In May, as required by law, alliances among parties were registered. One national alliance was formed, United Nicaragua Triumphs, which is made up of 9 political parties including the FSLN, six political movements, four social movements.

From July 28 to Aug. 2, six parties and one alliance registered 1,564 candidates for the election including candidates for President, Vice President, National Assembly Deputies and Central American Parliament Deputies. And on September 3 the SEC published the final list of Candidates. Candidates for President and Vice President are as follows:

The ballot paper for Nicaragua's general elections on November 7th 2021

Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC)

President; Walter Edén Espinoza Fernández.

Vice President; Mayra Consuelo Arguello Sandoval

Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) (United Nicaragua Triumphs Alliance)

President: Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra
Vice President: Rosario Maria Murillo Zambrana

Christian Path Party (CCN)

President: Guillermo Antonio Osorno Molina
Vice President: Violeta Janette Martinez Zapata

Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance Party (ALN)

President: Marcelo de Jesus Montiel Fernández
Vice President: Jennyfer del Carmen Espinoza Blen

Alliance for the Republic Party (APRE)

President: Gerson Gutierrez Gasparin
Vice President: Claudia Maria Romero Cuadra

Independent Liberal Party (PLI)

President: Mauricio Orue Vasquez
Vice President: Zobeyda del Socorro Rodríguez Díaz

Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka Party (YATAMA). YATAMA is a Caribbean Coast Party that presents candidacies to Regional Deputies (RACC sur and RACC norte); not for president. (Supreme Electoral Council Newsletter, 3 September 2021)

The elections were open to all parties which complied with electoral laws and procedures. In 2020 the time for fulfilling requirements to form new parties was extended by six months to facilitate registration by new parties.

It should be noted that only one political party currently in the National Assembly chose not to participate in the elections. That is the Conservative Party (PC). Cairo Amador, vice president of the SEC, noted that the participating parties are promoting the vote among their bases, which is a sign of political maturity.

On August 6, a complaint was filed by the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) which led to the SEC cancelling the legal standing of the Citizens for Liberty Party (CXL) and the Nicaraguan identity card of its head, Carmella María Rogers Amburn. Also known as Kitty Monterrey, she had violated electoral law by holding dual nationality as a US citizen and meeting frequently with the US ambassador. (Informe Pastran and Radio La Primerisima, 6 August 2021, Radio La Primerisima, 9 August 2021)

On September 20 the Ministry of Health and the SEC agreed on a Covid health protocol for the electoral campaign: Political parties should avoid massive face-to-face events and prioritize virtual and digital mechanisms to publicize their governing plans in a safer way. Face-to-face political activities should be held in open areas, for no more than 1.5 hours with no more than 200 people, ensuring prevention and control measures, such as a two meter distance between citizens, hand hygiene, use of masks and taking temperatures when entering the area. No person who qualifies as a confirmed or suspected case should attend these activities. It is recommended that pregnant women, children and adolescents should not participate in these activities. Caravans with buses, cars, motorcycles, or any other means of transportation are prohibited. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 September 2021)

The six parties and one alliance started their campaigns on September 25; the campaign period lasts through November 3. The CSE says that the parties will develop activities aimed at obtaining the votes of the citizens, explaining their ideological principles, their political, social and economic programs and their platforms. (Radio La Primerisima, 25 Sept.; Inf. Pastran, 20 Sept.)

The SEC accredited 80,954 board members of 13,459 Polling Stations on October 14 (3 Board members of each polling station and 3 alternates). The SEC has already delivered the electoral manual in order to train all the technicians who will work in the electoral process. It was also given to the political parties and alliances.

The SEC trained the Parties for the online presentation of their poll watchers (fiscales) who have these faculties: to be present in the premises and supervise the operation of each Voting Board, during the voting day until the delivery of the minutes and materials of the CSE, they may also request copies of the voting minutes. (Radio La Primerisima, 11 October, 2021)

Description of Voting

Election Day for the Voter

When you arrive at your voting center, if you don’t already know your polling station the lists of polling stations with their respective electoral roll are pasted on the wall outside. Most people verified in person in July or later on the internet. Normally there is not a long line as in the old days, because there are more polling stations than there used to be, and a better geographic distribution.

When you get to your polling station and it’s your turn to enter someone at the entrance asks you if you have been verified and you show your ID cedula. Then you enter the polling station and first talk with the president of the board who asks you for your cédula and makes sure it is you. Then the first member takes your cedula and finds you on the electoral roll. You sign next to your name and return to the president who gives you a ballot and explains it, and how to fold it. Your ballot should have the signatures of the President and First Member as well as the code for that polling station.

Then they send you to mark your ballot in private in a booth with a door or curtain. When you finish you put your ballot in the ballot box. After exercising your vote and depositing the ballot in the ballot box, you return to the table where the second member stains your finger (sometimes the thumb or index finger) with indelible ink, to ensure that you can’t vote someplace else, and returns your ID card and you leave. At the table there are other people who function as poll watchers.

November 7, 2021 ballot. It Includes the Party number, Party logo and a photo of the presidential candidate. Below that are names of National Assembly candidates, regional candidates and candidates to PARLACEN.

Election Day for Election Officials

All of the election materials are distributed by the SEC from the national office, to the Departmental and Regional offices and from there to the municipal offices. Early on election day the municipal electoral council takes all the poll workers by bus with the materials to the polling stations in the Voting Center.

The election board and poll watchers all verify things like the number of ballots they begin with; make sure the ballots all have the correct polling station code and the President and First Member sign each ballot. They all sign the minutes.

At the end of the day the election board and the poll watchers sign the minutes again verifying number of ballots used. They tally votes by party, null votes and ballots not used to come to the total number of ballots with which they began the day. The original of the minutes is taken by bus with the ballots and the poll workers to the municipal office. A copy is pasted onto the front of the Voting Center and each party gets a copy. T

he original of the minutes from the municipal electoral Council and ballots are taken by bus to the departmental electoral council and then all the departments and regions send everything to the National SEC.

But because a copy of the minutes of each polling station are pasted outside the Voting Center it is easy for a party to have people send in the data by phone and know by 10pm with great detail who won. All movement of ballots is accompanied by members of different parties and by police.

US Disinformation about Candidates

The US funded and directed opposition media and the US media have attempted to discount the elections even before they take place asserting that Presidential pre-candidates were investigated and imprisoned so that the Sandinistas would have no competition. This is ridiculous given that polls show the Sandinista Presidential formula will win by at least 63%. It is also a fabrication given there is no such thing as a pre-candidate.

No party had registered those under investigation as candidates and none of them were even members of legal parties participating in the elections. Some of them are being investigated for money laundering and fraud, others for conspiracy and treason in relation to another coup attempt. All of them were involved in one way or another in the 2018 coup attempt, but they aren’t being investigated for that.