MERIDEN — Manuel Saguay still votes in Ecuadorian elections even though he has been living in Meriden for 23 years. He still keeps up with national politics through Facebook and hearing from a daughter who still lives in Ecuador. He also said plans on traveling to New Haven to vote in the upcoming referendum on Sunday.
“Our country is pure politics,” he said in his native Spanish. “We participate to see if it does something.”
The Ecuadorian Consulate plans to host in-person voting in New Haven and Danbury on Sunday.
Consul General Julio Prado said that Ecuadorian immigrants who chose to vote in this referendum will receive four ballots – three to elect members of the Citizen Participation Council and one to answer eight referendum questions. What’s on the ballot?
The Citizen Participation Council –better known as the CPCC by its Spanish initials– is a powerful watchdog council charged with enforcing government accountability and social control, according to the Ecuadorian constitution. Among other duties, the council oversees the national Ombudsman's Office, Attorney General, judiciary council and election council.
In the upcoming referendum, Ecuadorians will elect council members to represent men, women, Indigenous Nations, Afroecuadorians and Ecuadorians living abroad, Prado said.
Additionally, the referendum ballot includes a few questions about amending the Ecuadorian constitution to change council membership. The amendments would allow members of the council to be appointed by the National Assembly instead of being chosen in a general election, pending the outcome of the referendum.
The referendum ballot also includes questions about extradition, the formation of political parties, the number of seats in the National Assembly and pay for environmentalists.
The referendum was announced in September by President Guillermo Lasso and has since been a topic of political contention. Ecuadorian newspaper El País reported that Lasso has been governing for 18 months without broad support in Congress and under threat of impeachment. Through the referendum, Lasso seeks crack down on crime, shore up approval and force the opposition to back down on key political reforms, according to an analysis from El País.
Ecuadorians still living in Ecuador will also receive a few more ballots to select local prefects, mayors, councilors, and other local dignitaries, Prado explained. Expected turnout
For Ecuadorians living abroad, Prado expects a smaller turnout than a presidential election.
About 11,500 Ecuadorians are registered to vote in the New Haven area, but between 1,600 and 2,000 did so at the New Haven consulate in the previous Ecuadorian election, Prado said.
“This is not a presidential election,” he explained in his native Spanish. “Elections are on a Sunday. Some people work, others are with family and don’t see voting like a democratic compromise. They see it a little bit more lax. There are also no penalties for those who do not vote.”
To reach out to the community, the Ecuadorian consulate displayed referendum posters in local businesses like the Ecuadorian-owned Wallingford Corner Market. Co-owner Luis Quizhpi agreed to display the poster to inform his countrymen.
“A lot of Ecuadorians come in here,” he said. Online votes
This is also the first election in which some Ecuadorians living abroad can vote online.
Prado explained that Ecuadorians registered to vote in Connecticut aren’t eligible to vote online because the state has a consulate. Instead, the online vote will be reserved for Ecuadorians who live far from a consulate, he said.
“There are Ecuadorians all over the center of the country. And in the center of the country, there aren’t many consulates, so what’s going to happen to those people if you make them vote, but it takes them one or two hours travel time?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s expensive. We’re not going to put people in that situation”
Since Connecticut has been hosting in-person polls for about a decade, Prado explained that the results of online voting in other areas will serve as a test to determine the future of online voting for the Ecuadorian diaspora.
“This is the first time we try online voting. We have to see how it works,” he said. “I agree with helping Ecuadorians living abroad to vote, but you also have to be careful about the way that you go about it to avoid suspicions, problems or errors at the time of the final tally.”
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.