A "Fair" Vote
With a lot of elections this year, the idea of a fair vote goes beyond Nicaraguan borders. This seems like a good chance to explain the election process in Nicaragua and contrast it with both what you may be more familiar with and what appears to be a model.
First, some references.
- In an earlier post there is information and a linked video on the process in Venezuela.
- A Pro Publica article titled Everything you've ever wanted to know about voter id laws looks at issues with who gets to vote in the US.
What is a Cédula?
To vote in Nicaragua (and many other Latin American countries) you need a cédula. It is a national ID card, in theory issued to every Nicaraguan citizen when they reach (for our concerns here) voting age. It is actually mandatory that you have one and law enforcement can demand to see it. In other words, it is illegal to be here without one.
The idea of a national ID card comes up in the US every few years. Your Social Security number has been (sometimes illegally) used as such an ID. Illegally because the law specifically says it cannot be used as an ID. It's use has been shoehorned into your tax ID for the IRS and grandfathered into use for other purposes (such as the pilot's ID number). Some states (the state of Washington being an example) tried to require it in order to obtain/renew a driver's license but that administrative decision was later recinded.
While 50 years ago, the argument that a national id was a breech of privacy made sense, today there is no such privacy. That is, in spite of how many different id numbers you may have, computer technology has made it easy for governments to effectively have a single id/place with all your data.
In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, I have never heard anyone complain about a national id being an invasion of privacy. It just seems to be considered how things work. The result is that most everything--from getting a telephone to voting requires a cédula. Irritating for newcomers to Nicaragua who don't yet have one but it is practical/does make sense.
So, everyone can vote?
Much like the naive statement that everyone of voting age can register and vote in the US, you can say the same about Nicaragua. In fact, as voting simply requires you to have a document which you legally must have anyway, it appears that being able to vote is far easier in Nicaragua. In many ways, it actually is but there are two specific complaints:
- There is no absentee voting in Nicaragua. You must travel to your polling place to cast your vote. This requirement is justified by some by saying "if you are not here, you should be casting your vote". Some will agree, others will disagree.
- Some assert that cédulas are not issued/issued quickly to those who oppose the current government. We have seen posts here in NL that assert that. What is missing is an organized effort (for example, some organization) bringing this issue forward rather than just individual statements.
Is there a solution?
There appears to be and Venezuela seems to have done it. If you watch the video about the election process in Venezuela there seems to be no question of the registration/voting process. The issues in Venezuela have to do with whether an incumbent can take advantage of their position by using government resources to their own advantage. This problem is clearly not unique to Venezuela. It is an issue in Nicaragua as well as the US. But,it is a different issue.
With the price of technology dropping, it would appear that other countries could take advantage of the system design being used in Venezuela. Because of the checks built into the system along with the level of automation, the ongoing cost of operation is lower than what is currently being done. In Nicaragua it would mean automation where none exists. In the US it would mean replacing a combination of systems--from manual to electronic with insufficient checks--and different registration processes/requirments with something similar to what is used in Venezuela.
While there are many other pieces of the election process to address (in most if not all countries) this could at least fix one.