Report Back From Feb. '14 El Salvador Delegation Print
On Sunday, February 2, Salvadorans turned out to vote for President in peaceful and transparent elections that 
resulted in the FMLN candidate,Salvador Sanchez-Ceren winning 49% of the vote. This was just short of the 50%
plus 1 required to become President, so there will be run-off elections on March 9. Sanchez-Ceren will face
Norman Quijano of the right-wing ARENA party, which held power from the end of the war until the
last presidential elections in 2009 and came in second with 39% of the vote. The Unity coalition, with former
President Tony Saca as its candidate came in a far third with 11% of the provisional vote.

SOAW’s election observer delegation was impressed with the participatory, transparent, and peaceful way in
which the elections were carried out across the country. We commend both the Salvadoran people and the
TSE (Electoral Tribunal) for their efforts to deepen the democratic process in these elections through important
electoral reforms and the participation of many Salvadorans at every level of the process. For the first time, many
Salvadorans voted in their own neighborhood instead of having to travel across the city or from rural communities to
municipal seats. This is the result of important new electoral reforms, one of which includes a dramatic expansion in
the number of voting centers so that voting is done in one’s neighborhood or community rather than having to travel
far distances. We witnessed many people in rural communities that have very little transportation able to walk to their
neighborhood school to vote. In addition to making voting more accessible this reform helps to prevent fraud because
election workers know many of the people in their community or neighborhood and would notice if a bus of people were
brought in from neighboring Honduras or Guatemala with fake IDs to vote as had been reported in the past.
Our delegation of election observers found the voting process to have multiple checks aimed at ensuring transparency.
At each step, a representative of each of the parties was able to watch what was occurring, greatly reducing possibilities
for fraud. There are also numerous safeguards built into the process. At least four counts of the number of voters at
each voting station are kept, including a list in which each voter signs next to his or her photo and name, a list where
each voters ID is verified, a count sheet, and a numbered corners of the ballots which are torn off as they are given to
the voters. All of these numbers are then checked at the end of the day and matched up against each other. At the
time of vote counting, at the voting tables we observed, between six and fifteen people carefully watched the counting,
including representatives from each party.
Another important improvement to the voting process is the immediate internet publication of the voting certificates
transmitted to the TSE from each voting station. Each of these certificates was filled out with the number of votes for
each party, number of blank votes, null votes, total number of votes cast, and other data, signed by all members of
that table's voting board and party representative and then scanned by a special program that transmits it directly the
Electoral Tribunal internet portal, so it is immediately posted on the internet and accessible to anyone. Copies are also
printed for the voting board and party representatives of that station, in addition to the carbon copy they received when
the declaration was written allowing them to verify that it is correct.
Of course, no elections are perfect. At one voting station where we observed, somebody altered the finalized certificate
of votes for that voting table to add 10 votes for the ARENA party after the declaration had been finalized and signed by
all the table members but before it was transmitted to the TSE. However, because of the numerous carbon copies that
were made of the certificate as it was written and distributed to the table members, party representatives, and other
election officials at the time of signing, the representatives of the Electoral Attorney General’s office and the Municipal
Electoral Board were quickly able to verify the true number of votes. They wrote up a declaration of the manipulation that
occurred. Since it had already been transmitted to the TSE, these 10 fake votes for ARENA appear in the preliminary totals
posted from each voting center on the internet, but this issue has been reported and will hopefully be taken into account
for the final count which is currently being carried out.
The CIS (Center for Exchange and Solidarity) Observer Mission of which SOAW was part also made several recommendations
to the TSE to address this and anomalies that were observed at different stations, such as lack of handicapped accessibility,
to further improve the process for the second round of voting. The CIS Mission also carefully observed and made important
recommendations regarding the problems with voting for Salvadorans outside the country, such as in the US, which was
implemented for the first time in these elections and as a result had problems.
The delegation observed that the presence of the representative of the Electoral Attorney General’s office at each voting
location was a very positive safeguard. At this same voting station, ARENA representatives had caused conflict at different
points throughout the day, delaying the opening of the voting center to voters. Each time the delegates of the Municipal
Electoral Board dealt with the situation very professionally and impartially.
In just a month, Salvadorans will return to the polls for the second round of elections. Stay tuned!