Election Day Updates
Evening update: El Salvador voting centers (9:58 pm)
After a long and exhausting day, many poll workers are still waiting to be able to transmit the results from their table to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Observers report that a hand count have been taken of ballots, but many tables are missing the formal paperwork (actas) to transcribe the vote count; others are waiting on the machinery and personnel necessary to scan and submit results to the TSE.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has not even posted preliminary results. Bukele, however, has already claimed victory on X, proclaiming his win as the "[biggest] in the entire democratic history of the world" and calling supporters to a victory rally at 9 pm
Evening updates: U.S. voting centers
Observers report that voting centers handled the long lines differently. In some locations, the hotel where voting was being held called the police to disburse the crowd and those remaining outside were not allowed to vote, though they had been in line before 5 pm. In others, voting centers stayed open later; in another, the center closed, then re-opened. It appears most voting centers had wrapped up their processed and submitted results electronically by around 7 pm local time.
Afternoon update: U.S. voting centers (4:45 pm)
With only 15 minutes left until voting centers are due to close, observers report that there are still very long lines in several locations, especially hotels being used as voting centers. Regulations state that people who are in line by 5 pm should be allowed to vote.
Observers report that many voters who tried to vote were unable to do so, whether because their national ID (DUI) or their passport did not appear on the registry. Anecdotally, this appears especially to have been the case for people attempting to vote with passports. In at least one voting center, observers report that many votes cast were not ultimately counted, as the electronic procedure was not executed properly.
Given the high volume of voters, many people are being instructed to vote online with their phone if they are eligible (voters with current DUI that lists an address outside El Salvador). There are multiple reports of representatives of the governing party helping people to vote in this way.
Midday update: U.S. voting centers
At voting centers in U.S. cities, where Salvadorans can vote electronically for the first time, international observers are reporting a mixed bag, as it were. Some voting centers are quiet and people are in and out in five minutes, while others have lines of thousands stretching around the block.
Some international observers at U.S. voting centers are reporting that there is lots of confusion regarding who can cast a ballot there. According to the regulations, the following people should be able to vote at the in-person centers:
1) people who have a national ID listing an address in El Salvador, current or expired
2) people using a Salvadoran passport, current or expired, as their ID
3) people who have a current national ID with a U.S. address (approximately 740,000 people)
However, that last group, people who have a U.S. or foreign address on their ID card, are also able to vote online using a portal established by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and can do so via personal computer, tablet, phone, etc. (this 'remote voting' modality was opened a month ago for eligible voters and is still open today).
In different voting centers, this is being handled differently in terms of people who are eligible to vote online being directed to or given the option to vote online elsewhere (at one location, the Embassy is doing this, at another, people are being directed to a Nuevas Ideas governing party tent set up outside the voting center, at another, individual citizens are helping each other vote by phone and, in others, Nuevas Ideas party members are pulling people out of line to "help" them vote online). This raises concerns regarding possible influencing of voting or voter induction, which is outlawed.
Several voting centers are also reporting that people who have shown up with a passport are not finding their names on the list and are being turned away.
Additionally, there are questions being raised as to the role that representatives of the Salvadoran government, such as consular staff, are playing. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) oversees the elections; the Ministry of Foreign Relations does not have a role.
Yesterday, a Salvadoran news outlet, FOCOS TV released an audio recording in which members of Bukele’s cabinet were instructing governing Nuevas Ideas party members who had a role on election day to coordinate with the consulates and to disregard certain laws, assuring them that if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal was “on the same side” as their party, there would be no problem.
Midday update: El Salvador
While opposition leaders in the country condemn fraudulent conditions surrounding today’s elections, they are also denouncing irregularities that are leading to confusion in voting centers.
Oscar Ortiz, Secretary General of the opposition Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, told reporters that these elections are “the most unorganized elections since the signing of the Peace Accords” in 1992. He described thousands of poll workers not receiving their credentials, leading many of them to be denied entry to their voting center, and opening them up to potential government sanctions.
Ortiz also denounced the fact that public elections financing was opened up to the opposition parties on the afternoon of the last day for parties to campaign. Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party, on the other hand, has blatantly defied campaign season limits and has used state funds to promote the ruling party.
Regarding the voting centers in other countries, Ortiz stated that election center confusion is compounded by a controversial August 2023 Supreme Electoral Tribunal decision to remove his FMLN party from elections oversight boards in the exterior. These limitations on accountability could create vulnerabilities in understaffed and inexperienced voting centers.
Salvadoran press and international observers are reporting many violations by Bukele's ruling party on the prohibition on electioneering outside of voting centers.