Democracy Honduran Style

December 1st, 2005
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v3-12-Our Islands Every body knows that in this country we vote strictly according to tradition.
You might ask why is it then that in a specific area, the party that’s in power during an election can end up losing that election.

As it implies, voting by tradition means that everybody always vote for the same party they were born into. Assuming that this is correct, then there should never be a power change whenever there is a public election in any specific place. That is not always the case and there are two reasons why it’s not always so.

The first reason is that over the past few decades in places like the Bay Islands there has been a great influx of people that have come to stay. These people not only bring their families, but they also bring along their voting traditions and almost always have their voter registration listing transferred to their new place of residence. This has changed the outcome of many elections in Bay Islands in the last few decades.

The second reason is for something I guess could be called reverse “gerrymandering”. As you know, gerrymandering is the process of rearranging of electoral districts so as to favor the party in power and this is accomplished by redistricting the area in question so as to bunch the electorate in favor of the party doing the redistricting.

This practice was severely restricted in the USA since its Supreme Court passed a ruling in which it stated that apportionment is to be based on its famous (or infamous) “one man, one vote” decision in 1962.

We do things a little different down here but the results are basically the same. First the interested political party must find a place that they are sure that this particular party will win the elections with no problems, and then they must calculate by how wide a margin they will win. This political party then proceeds to draw off the surplus voters leaving just enough to win by a fairly safe margin.

The voters that were drawn off from that one particular place are now available to be used wherever the party thinks that they are needed most. Before these surplus voters can vote in the new place, the party must legally transfer them there. The day before election day the party brings the transferred voters in by plane, by car, by boat, or by cayuco to perform their patriotic duty by casting their vote for the party.

This may seem a bit unorthodox and maybe just a little immoral but it is completely legal if the transfers are done in the allotted time frame allowed by the law before the elections. This kind of vote relocation will continue to occur until a law is enacted that will prohibit the practice by placing a voter residency requirement on the books.

There is another practice that I think is illegal because it creates an unbalance in supervisory ability at the voting tables. The small political parties do this and it’s done for money. These small parties are authorized by law to have representatives at all the tables in any district. In some towns where there are only a few, or no voters, these small parties then sell credentials to anyone with the money to purchase them. These credentials entitle the holders to vote without having been registered to vote in that town.

The purchaser of those credentials can bring anybody from anywhere to sit at the voting tables. Their credentials identify them as representative of one party, but there are at the table to take care of the interest and vote for another party. In some cases there can be only two representatives from one of the bigger parties at a table. The remaining representatives at that table are working for the other large party in spite of the legitimate credentials they wear around their necks. This type of vote manipulation mostly affects the outcome of elections for diputados and alcaldes.

I remember on one occasion a certain candidate won the elections in a small town by thirty-eight votes and later the long time residents of that town came looking for favors from the winner. One of the townsmen remarked to the politician that without those thirty eight votes the election might have been lost, the politician agreed with him and then sent him on his way with the usual promise of looking in to the matter.

After the voters had gotten out of sight, the politician turned to his friend and said: “those fools believe they won the election for us, but what they will never know is that we (the party) placed forty floaters (transferred voters) in that town the day of the elections.” [/private]

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