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Costa Rica’s elections tribunal blames the Super Bowl for low voter turnout abroad

Last Sunday’s presidential election marked the first time that Costa Ricans could vote from abroad. But not many of them did — and part of the problem might’ve been the major event occurring that same day in the United States, the Super Bowl. Out of 12,654 registered voters living outside of Costa Rica, only 2,771 cast a ballot

Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) President Luis Antonio Sobrado said a significant portion of those potential voters lived in the northeast of the United States.

He suggested to La Nación that the cold there, along with complications created by the Super Bowl, likely kept many Ticos inside.

“I don’t have definitive conclusions, but it appears the climate in the northern United States, where some of the most important voting booths were, was brutal, with very low temperatures,” Sobrado said.

He added that the elections competed with the Super Bowl, an event followed by many people and that hinders transportation. [This year’s championship took place just outside of New York City.]

Election Day didn’t just clash with the Super Bowl (the most watched TV program in U.S. history, and won by the Seattle Seahawks). The elections also occurred at the same time as Chinese New Year celebrations. Sobrado said congestion in China also made it difficult for voters to reach polls in Beijing.

At the Costa Rica consulate in New York City, only 150 people had voted by Sunday at 3 p.m., according to La Nación. There were 2,657 voters registered at that polling station. Many of those potential voters lived more than an hour outside of the city.

Another problem seemed to be the low number of Tico expats registered to vote in the first place. Some Tico Times readers complained that they were never informed about an Oct. 2 deadline to register.

To ensure more Costa Rican citizens living abroad could vote, the TSE spent ₡66 million ($130,000) setting up the absentee vote. That figure included ₡5 million ($1,000) spent on gas for a boat to the protected territory of Cocos Island, where only 11 of the of the 28 listed park rangers and administrators were available to vote that day.

The TSE had estimated a higher participation, but Sobrado told La Nación some Ticos did organize long journeys to exercise their right to vote for the country’s next president (expats could not vote for legislative candidates).

He said registered Costa Ricans living abroad will be able to vote again in the runoff election between Johnny Araya and Luis Guillermo Solís set for April 6.


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