How is the purging of the electoral roll and the delivery of the new identification document progressing in Honduras?

Census in Honduras
Credit: Manuel Ortiz

By Helen Montoya/Center for the Study of Democracy (Cespad)

With less than 40 days to go before the general elections take place, the purging of the electoral roll and the delivery and definition of whether Hondurans will vote with one or both identification documents continue to generate uncertainty because these two situations, in past electoral processes, have contributed to corruption and lack of transparency in the final results of the voting.

The two aspects are crucial and of great concern to the citizenry, because they are a kind of "Achilles heel" in the electoral processes in Honduras.

Delays with the DNI

The process of enrolment of Hondurans and the delivery of the new National Identification Document (DNI), have had some delays in compliance with the electoral calendar, due to the obstacles generated from the National Congress in order, say some people consulted, to boycott the elections of November 28, 2021.

According to the National Registry of Persons (RNP), more than 5.3 millions of Hondurans enrolled before September 23. That number represents 99% of total enrollment nationwide, according to the RNP, and of these people 2,817,697 are women and 2,581,145 are men.

Official data state that more than 4 million of the new DNImissing the delivery of a few 900,000 new identities, a figure confirmed by the RNP on 16 October. However, of that number they will have to be debugged The following sectors are not eligible to vote: the police, the military and persons deprived of their liberty.

The presence of deceased and migrants in the national electoral roll has traditionally fueled suspicions about the risk of vote fraud, as happened in the 2017 elections. In those elections, the RNP estimates that it had up to 30% of the total census with such problems. But, for the 2021 elections, this entity indicated that there are about 700,000 fewer voters, after updating the data and leaving out deceased persons and migrants.

The validity of the current DNI is extended: is it possible to vote with two identities?

But in this scenario, the number of the new ID card yet to be delivered is a number viewed with suspicion and nervousness due to the short time left before the general elections take place.

The extension of the validity of the current identity, up to the 15 NovemberThe fact that the election will be held on November 28 is of great concern because it opens the door to the likelihood of voting with both identification documents.

The extension The use of the current identity card will be for commercial transactions and not for voting in the elections, said Tomás Zambrano, secretary of the CN, to the media, so that it is maintained, at least so far, the idea that will not be voting with two identities. Also, the NC decided to extend by 180 days the validity of the current identity card for Hondurans abroad.

But other political voices have denounced that, less than a month before the elections, the new extension of the use of the current identity card, which is extended to 13 days before the vote, generates uncertainty because there is a preconceived plan by the government party to vote with the identity cards on November 28.

Sociologist Eugenio Sosa, in a recent analysis for CESPAD, predicts that it is likely that the National Congress, in its anti-election crusade, will reach ?approve that Hondurans can vote with either identification document, which will overburden the problem of the transparency of the electoral process and its results.?.

Despite the above, the president of the CNE, Kelvin Aguirre, has expressed in the media that ?There can't be two ID cards; we reject that. You have to go to the election process with only one document.?.

In the same sense, the member of the CNE Advisory Committee, Carlos Ortiz, indicated that ?the person who was not enrolled will not appear on the new National Electoral Roll and therefore will not vote.?, as they do not have the new ID card, so they will not have the opportunity to vote with the current ID card.

Vaticanio

Luis Redondo, deputy of the Innovation and Unity-Social Democratic Party (PINU-SD), maintains that the process of purging the electoral roll is still incomplete and this situation could lead to situations or characteristics similar to those that occurred in the primary elections, held in March 2021.

But the congressman goes further and predicts that what happened in the primary elections is planned in the general elections because he is convinced that there is no purification of the electoral roll and the total delivery of the ID cards is not complete. "There were Hondurans who voted in this year's primaries with a copy of their new DNI application, with electricity receipts, and, moreover, in polling stations that did not correspond to them.".

For this congressman, it is evident that the National Party has put obstacles to the electoral process through the delays in the approval of the new Electoral Law, the disbursement of the budget to the National Electoral Council (CNE) and RNP; the budgetary control to these entities and even the non-approval of the Electoral Justice Law. But he also affirms that other political parties have made a "co-government", and have helped to make the electoral panorama doubtful and not very credible.

He puts on the discussion table another problem that, he affirms, could tarnish the result of the elections: the suffrage of the young people who will vote for the first time. They are not registered, so they have not been assigned to the Voting Boards". This indicates, he adds, that the purging of the census is incomplete and there is no predictability of the registration data due to the fact that both ?the RNP and the CNE, are led by the three political parties?referring to the National Party, Liberal Party and Liberty and Refoundation (Libre).

The RNP is not working at full capacity and, according to Redondo, has received complaints that the offices close at 12 noon, and other cases in which people can't find their IDs in the right places.

Everything is going well!

Redondo's statements contrast with the version of Rolando Kattan, Commissioner of the (RNP), who assured in an interview to CESPAD that the 2021 elections will not contain the same mistakes as in 2017.

It is important that they trust in the electoral process," said the commissioner, adding that there are already ?99% of Hondurans with the enrollment? and that they will have the new DNI. He also added that they do not have ?for certain? the total number of people in the territory, that is to say, how many inhabitants Honduras has. But he insists in affirming that they have fulfilled the objectives despite the problems generated by the pandemic, hurricanes Eta and Iota, and the delay in the delivery of the budget for the optimal development of the electoral process.

He also invited all Hondurans to obtain the DNI because one day after the legislative decree expires "the previous ID will no longer be valid and Hondurans will not be able to use it for any bank transactions or administrative procedures.

Some costs related to the DNI

Through the so-called Identify Yourself project, the RNP is working with the United Nations Program (UNDP), with loans from CABEI and national funds in the process of providing the new identification document to 5.5 million Hondurans who are of voting age during the November elections this year.

The total cost of this process is 63 million dollars, plus 9 million dollars due to the time lag in the enrollment and delivery of the ID cards. Meanwhile, the cost of each identity card is $ 1.88 (about 47 lempiras).

Other costs, always in the enrollment process, include, according to Kattan, the mobilization of 400 people, 300 vehicles, 1,500 kits. Also, the expenses for Covid-19 and biosecurity protocols, masks, alcohol, thermometers, chlorine and others for the enrollment process.

The RNP commissioner, Roberto BrevéHe indicated that at least 300,000 ID cards are pending, which will come to the country in two batches from the factory in Poland in October.

Inconsistencies

According to the commissioner consulted, so far the electoral roll has been purged by 99%. On that percentage, the same RNP reported that they knew 400, 000 inconsistencies related to the validation of data of Hondurans enrolled. Also, they verify more than 80 thousand cases of failures in the identity cards, in order to validate data to print correctly the new ID cards.

These inconsistencies have been another delay in meeting the stipulated date for the full delivery of the 5.3 million ID cards.

The representative of the PNUD, Richard Barathe, discarded that the new identification document generates some type of failure in the electoral process because he assures that it is an "ultra safe" identity because the registry base created is of the highest quality.

Those who didn't show up didn't enroll and those who didn't enroll don't have a DNI. The dead who did not go to register and the foreigners who did not register are not in that registry base, therefore, they are not going to arrive at the voting centers to put their fingerprint," he said, adding that it is an advance to achieve clean and transparent elections.

Foreign voting

Another issue that represents a problem is the lack of delivery of the DNI, to the Honduran migrant community residing in the United States, Canada and Central America. According to the RNP, the number of Hondurans living abroad who would be participating with their votes in the elections has tripled. Authorities say that 16,000 citizens living outside the country have enrolled.

However, it is estimated that there are at least a million Hondurans living in other countries who, according to leaders of the migrant community, are becoming "doubly undocumented due to lack of government action," since without the DNI they will not be able to vote or carry out personal procedures or errands.

According to the RNP Commissioner, Oscar RiveraThe delay in the delivery of the new ID cards to Hondurans abroad is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since they have consulted them on the subject, through ?six notes? and, nevertheless, they have not received a response. Rivera maintains that ?the identities of the Hondurans who have enrolled are already printed, but there is no joint work schedule to send them through the consulates?

The fraud of 2017

From the CNE, Rixi Moncada, in her capacity as councilor, says that there is an important advance towards the fulfillment of a clean and satisfactory electoral process, with purging of deceased and citizens who have migrated. "In 2017, there was a purification of word, a requirement of law. Now in 2021, it was registration of citizens in the field, a physical verification that provides greater security, "he says, when consulted by CESPAD.

Various forms of fraud were denounced, explains Moncada, among them through the national electoral census, vote buying and selling, rigged special scrutinies, the transmission of preliminary results and their more than 600 drops.

The counselor is confident that, for the 2021 general elections, the electoral base will have no deceased or migrants, since the identification process was done in the field, and with that base the final census will be prepared, after reviewing, evaluating and qualifying the records that the RNP will send to the CNE.

"The process of delivery of the DNI by the RNP, has enough time for massive delivery and thus achieve the result that would mean that all Hondurans have their identification ?free to exercise their right to vote,? he said optimistically.

However, he says that if all the cards are not delivered, the situation will become a problem that will result in the violation of the right of citizens to carry their identification document, the only one valid for voting. Despite the successes and delays, Moncada agrees that the general elections should not be held with two identities, for "the security and cleanliness of the process.

Electoral reforms

Due to the serious allegations and irregularities with which the 2017 elections were carried out, organized civil society, the political opposition, some international organizations and other countries, called for an urgent change in the electoral legislation in its entirety. Thus, reforms and proposals for improvement began to be heard and known, with the aim of not repeating the mistakes of that year.

One of the main reforms requested at that time was precisely the way to purify the national electoral census, and even the need to deliver a new identity card as a way to purify the electoral roll and to have more accurate data on the true number of inhabitants in the territory.

Thus, with the November 28 elections just weeks away, it is essential to complete the delivery of ID cards to those enrolled and to ensure that Hondurans will attend a general election with a purified voter list, in order to greatly reduce the chances of another possible electoral fraud.

You may be interested in: November elections in Honduras will define the future of democracy in the country and could be a trend-setter in Central America

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