In a rules change, foreign residents must register to vote in the 2021 national election

Jan 2, 2020 | 3 comments

Foreign residents who want to vote in the 2021 national election will be required to register in person with the National Electoral Council (CNE). The registration requirement is a change from the 2009 rule that automatically registered foreigners to vote after they had obtained a cedula and been in the country for five years.

Foreign residents are still allowed to vote in Ecuador but, under new rules, they must register first.

“We welcome legal foreign residents to participate in Ecuador’s elections but want them to express the clear desire to vote by registering,” the CNE said in statement. “In the past, registration was automatic, based on cedulization, but most foreigners who were registered never voted.”

Voting is optional for foreigners under both the old and new rules but is mandatory for Ecuadorian citizens, as it is in most Latin American countries.

CNE president Diana Atamaint said the rule change was prompted by a number of factors. “In reviewing voting lists we found that some Civil Registry offices were ignoring the five-year residency rule for cedula holders and adding them to voter lists immediately,” she said. “We were also concerned about the fact that there is no method for purging names when foreigners leave the country permanently.”

In a recent “debugging” of voter rolls, the CNE removed the names of 113,171 foreign voters.

“We are adopting the rules used by most other countries regarding voting by foreign residents,” Atamaint said. “The change is not meant to exclude foreigners from the process, only to make sure that we are not inflating our lists with those who have no interest in participating in the electoral process.”

A number of organizations have endorsed CNE’s new rules, including the Ecuadorian-American Chamber of Commerce. “This makes good sense to us,” the chamber said in a press release. “In the United States, for example, all voters, including foreigners, register to participate in elections. As long as the process is clear, open and accurate we believe this encourages a healthy democratic tradition.”

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