International election watchers say exit polls and ‘quick count’ lead to unnecessary confusion

Feb 9, 2021 | 2 comments

Although international election watchers praised Sunday’s election and the subsequent vote count for its fairness and transparency, they criticized the use of exit polls and a national “quick count” for creating what they called “unnecessary confusion.”

Ecuador’s National Electoral Council meeting on Monday.

Adolfo Mendoza, head of the Andean Parliament election observer team asked Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) to reconsider the release of exit polling results immediately following the election as well as the “quick count” issued by the CNE hours after poll closings. “The release of these unofficial numbers create controversy and expectations that may not be borne out by final election results,” he says. “We see this particularly in the case of the runner-up results in this year’s presidential election.”

When the CNE released its “quick count” Sunday night, four hours after voting concluded, council president Diana Atamaint noted that there was a “technical tie” for second place in the presidential race between Yaku Pérez and Guillermo Lasso. In the following hours, however, Pérez built a small but growing lead over Lasso, a trend that continued during vote counting on Monday and into the early hours of Tuesday. The quick count results were issued with less than 10 percent of the voted counted.

“These early unofficial results create a climate of mistrust and can lead to charges of election fraud,” Mendoza said.

Oscar Laborde, a representative of the Mercosur observer team, agreed and pointed out the controversy following the 2017 election when two exit polls predicted that Lasso had defeated President Lenin Moreno. “In the end, Mr. Moreno won by three percentage points but the early announcement almost set off a riot in Quito.”

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He added: “Since the polls and early count are unofficial and non-binding, there is a question of why release the results at all.”

On Monday, Pérez claimed that confusion and delays in the vote counting were a plot by Lasso, former president Rafael Correa and others to deny him a runoff position against leading candidate Andres Arauz. Atamaint denied the charge but dozens of Pérez’s supporters camped out Monday in front of CNE headquarters in Quito.

Otherwise, election observers gave the CNE and the election process high marks. “The voting process itself ran very smoothly and offered few suggestions of irregularities,” said Guillermo Reyes, past president of the Electoral Council of Colombia. “I also thought that by the Covid pandemic. Inside polling locations, social distancing was maintained and voters who needed help received it. There were a few problems in the lines outside the precincts, with some unnecessary crowding, but we witnessed no major issues.”

In general, Reyes said that elections in Ecuador have traditionally been some of the smoothest in South America. “My experience is that they always do an excellent job and this year was no exception.”

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