Cablegate: Electoral Training Effort Not Without Hiccups
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 002608
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV EC
SUBJECT: ELECTORAL TRAINING EFFORT NOT WITHOUT HICCUPS
REF: A. QUITO 2499
B. QUITO 2500
1. SUMMARY: A successful October 17 vote depends partly on
the 275,000 Ecuadorians manning the polls election day.
Training this army is a Herculean task falling to Ecuador's
Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE); $400,000 in USG assistance,
channeled through international electoral NGO CAPEL, bolsters
the instructional effort. The TSE-CAPEL plan emphasizes a
train-the-trainer methodology and enlists the support of the
TSE's provincial branches and 30 universities nationwide.
Poll worker training commenced September 11 and will continue
until October 16, one day before the vote. Electoral apathy,
especially amongst Ecuador's youth, has complicated the TSE's
mission, both in recruitment and education. As of September
23, many training bottlenecks existed on the coast, but few
in the highlands. END SUMMARY.
Changes in 2004 Procedures
2. Poloff September 23 visited TSE Training Assistant Ana
Patino, a key player in the development of the Tribunal's
electoral education plan. Patino offered thanks for the
USG's continued support, in words and dollars, of the TSE.
The training effort, which commenced in February, was
entering the final stretch and she looked forward to its
denouement (and a long vacation).
3. The education campaign had begun with selection of
workers to staff the voting stations (JRVs). Historically,
legions of party members filled the JRVs, an obvious conflict
of interest. Even attracting party faithful required
financial incentives, however. Predictably, graft and
corruption followed, the provincial electoral tribunals
(TSPs) not disbursing funds promptly (or at all) to JRV
staff. For the 2004 vote, the TSE requested the TSPs to
study voter lists, seeking primarily students and educators.
The culled lists were then subjected to a specialized TSE
computer program that selected the final slate. "Volunteers"
will receive either two days paid leave (for government
workers) two additional grade points (for students), or a
certficate of appreciation (for all others).
4. An experienced Tribunal official, Patino described the
greatest training change between Ecuador's 2002 and 2004
elections. Two years ago, the TSPs enjoyed great autonomy in
training JRV staff, whether directly or via contractor.
Unfortunately, international observers noted great
discrepancies in procedures employed, even within the same
precinct. To correct this and other shortcomings, the TSE,
with USAID financial assistance, contracted CAPEL, the Center
for Electoral Promotion and Assistance. While still working
closely with the TSPs, CAPEL has enlisted 30 universities and
305 professors to establish teams of trainer-specialists that
will actually conduct the JRV education courses. Not
surprisingly, many TSPs felt slighted by the change, and have
not cooperated fully with their university partners.
The Courses Themselves
5. The JRV course lasts 2-4 hours, depending on trainee
aptitude. Approximately 25 percent is theory, 75 percent
hands-on -- verifying identity documents, determining vote
validity, counting ballots and completing required forms.
Training began in 12 provinces September 11 and in the
remainder September 13 or 18. Due in equal parts to TSP
intransigence, JRV apathy, and TSE delays, the training
effort likely will continue until election eve, October 16.
Despite these efforts, Patino admitted some JRVs might report
for October 17 untrained.
6. She asserted that neither carrot (paid leave and higher
grades) nor stick (withholding privileges to JRV no-shows)
would increase participation and interest long-term. Rather,
Ecuador needed better civic education. Patino claimed the
TSE and Education Ministry were drafting a pilot program to
begin educating elementary school students on democratic
How it Goes
7. As of September 23, training completion rates in
highlands and Amazon provinces, excluding Pichincha (home to
capital Quito) were at nearly 70 percent. Ecuador's coastal
provinces are lagging, however, especially Guayas (home to
Guayaquil), El Oro and Manabi. TSPs there have protested
loudly against the TSE/CAPEL changes and are not cooperating
with their university partners. The delays worry TSE
leaders, Patino claimed, but they are confident they can
overcome them by election day (the Manabi province TSP
president told visiting Polcouns September 29 that JRV
training there would complete by October 2).
8. Media on September 22 reported on another worrisome
complication. The Military Geographic Institute (IGM), which
prints ballots for all Ecuadorian elections, was allegedly
far behind in its production schedules. Patino confirmed the
story, but noted similar (and eventually overcome) slowdowns
in the run-up to the 2002 vote. The IGM's local election
workload was far greater, however, since each province,
municipality, and rural canton required unique ballots.
9. We admire the TSE's commitment to training and judge our
electoral education assistance well-spent. That said, we
hope that, in pulling training "all-nighters" October 16, the
TSE remains focused on an equally vital task, preparing
precincts for the next-day vote. Embassy election observers
in 2002 saw JRV openings delayed for lack of basic materials,
from masking tape to indelible ink. Preventing a repeat is