It took years for El Salvador’s legislative system to give Salvadorans living abroad the right to vote by mail in national elections. The law was passed last year, and on Sunday, Feb. 2, the country’s expats will participate for the first time in a presidential election. But the process hasn’t been going as smoothly as some had hoped, with many frustrated by a process they say was rolled out too late, with poor planning and little time for hopeful voters to follow through. Tito Rivera, a Los Angeles restaurant owner, said he registered to vote in the election months ago. But with the election just days away, he still hadn’t received his voter packet. “Most likely I’m not going to vote,” Rivera said. “That’s what going to happen. Because if I don’t send that in time…it’s not going to count. I’m disappointed, because we’ve been fighting for that a long time.”
He and other Salvadoran Americans complained of insufficient time for people to get a required national identification card through their local consulate and register to vote. Those who received ballots said they began arriving in December. And then there are those like Rivera – who said he hasn’t changed his address in 20 years – who haven’t received them yet.
The ability to participate in national elections is a big deal for Salvadoran Americans, said Salvador Sanabria, executive director of El Rescate, a non-profit that provides legal aid and other services to Central Americans in L.A.