Submitted by Ben Edwards, USAID/Haiti
Like most days in Port-au-Prince, Haitians began to fill the streets at sunrise. On this Sunday, however, they were headed to the polls, eager to exercise their democratic right in the presidential runoff and parliamentary elections.
Voters at many polling stations waited calmly in line for their turn to vote. At a few other polling stations that opened late, long lines of would-be voters seemed anxious about the missing their chance to vote.
I was part of a small U.S. Government team that traveled to several polling stations around the city. As we roved from polling station to polling station, we identified those that were running smoothly and those that were experiencing problems.
It was my first time as an election monitor, so I was lucky that my two team members were experienced experts. Our team leader, Denise Dauphinais, also heads USAID’s elections support program in Haiti. She shares her first impressions of the polling stations she visited in the video embedded in this blog post. Among her impressions, she notes:
- There appeared to be more people in and around polling stations than there were during the first round of elections last November.
- There were logistical problems early in the morning that caused some polling stations in Port-au-Prince to open late, but the Provisional Electoral Council and United Nations seemed to address them.
- The mood appeared more comfortable and calm than it did during the first round of elections in November.
Dauphinais and the rest of our small team were part of a much larger effort to support the elections on Sunday. The U.S. Government disbursed a number teams – more than 40 people all told – across the country to monitor election-day activities. The international community, led by the Organization of American States and the United Nations, and a cadre of domestic partners also provided important services throughout the day: election observation to vote counting to name a few.
Support for elections in Haiti may have been most visible on Sunday, but it was only the latest crescendo in an effort that took millions of dollars and months of planning by Haitian institutions and the international community. The U.S. Government alone invested more than $15 million in support of both rounds of elections, including:
- A public information campaign using SMS messages, radio, television, billboards, and a call-center to inform people about the location of their polling station;
- Training for poll workers and election observers; and,
- Equipping poll stations with supplies such as ballots, ballot boxes, and tamper-evident transport bags.
As we wait for the preliminary results to be announced by March 31, and final results by April 16, both Haitians and the international community are no doubt hoping that the relative calm on Sunday is a sign of what’s to come.