April 18, 2006

The Ballots to be Used in the Constituent Assembly

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This is how the ballots to be used in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly will look like. The regional electoral courts have set the place of each group in the ballot. La Razon has published this graph on April 14.

Given the number of political parties, groups, organizations, asociations, and what not, it would be easy to conclude that the upcoming Constituent Assembly would be well represented by society in general. However, that is not the case. Many, specially, indigenous goups like the Conamaq (the confederation of indigenous groups of the eastern regions), are saying they are being excluded from the process. I assume this is because they could not register to take part in the elections. These groups are organizing their own, paralell, constituent assembly. That is their way of protesting.

The ballot looks familiar, which is good for the voter. What is not so good, I think, is that the votes will be for lists rather than for people. I find that a bit unpractical. What if I don't like one name with in a particular list? Should I not vote for that list? But, what do I do if that particular group reflects my preferences best? I find that situation could prevent some people to vote for the people they want.

Personally, I think the vote should be personal.

One other thing I find to be not so optimal. The possibility of cross-voting is a reality and could be used to balance power better. But, are Bolivian voters capable to use this extra advantage? Notice, I am NOT saying that Bolivians are ignorant and don't know how to vote. What I am saying is, in order to make optimal use of the cross-voting option, the voter has to consider all (at least most) the possibilities. For example, what happens if I vote for PODEMOS at the national level and vote for MAS at the local level? What effect will that have in the overall number of delegates to the assembly? If I want MAS to have a slight majority, but at the same time I don't want MAS to dominate but rather want PODEMOS to have the chance to have some say and some real influence, what is the best strategy for my vote? What is going to happen if I give all my votes to PODEMOS? If I want the indigenous in the east to have some representation, or women, how do I vote?

I think this kind of considerations to cast votes are necessary, but to be realist, not even in the most developed democracies people take full advantage of this possibility. I would tend to say that the average Bolivian voter will only look for the party symbol and accronym and will cross on the box.

However, on the other hand, there is no simpler way of doing the ballots if the aim is to achieve representativeness and fairness. It's a difficult job.