ORU students to serve as official election observers for El Salvador elections

By Ally Powell ('13)

Government students in Central AmericaOral Roberts University professor Sonny Branham will travel to El Salvador, Central America, on March 8 with a group of students to observe upcoming local and legislative elections. During this trip, students will have the opportunity to be official election observers. These elite groups ensure that the election process is conducted fairly.

"It is an honor to be an election observer," says Branham.

In order for ORU students to become official election observers, they attend a three-hour course for credit. In this course, they learn about the El Salvador electoral process and study inappropriate political behaviors to watch for in candidates. Students will also discuss different political issues that are relevant to the upcoming election. Typically, college students are not chosen to be election observers.

The responsibility of an election observer is to inspect the entire election. After the election, members must submit a report stating whether they believe the election was fairly conducted and note any inappropriate behavior from the party members. Their reports will be complied with other election observers' commission reports.

"Before the election, we will hopefully interact with parties and candidates to find out how they stand on various issues," Branham says.
The students will arrive in El Salvador prior to the election to grasp a strong understanding about each candidate, political party and issue. The elections will take place on March 11.

Unlike political elections in America, members of each political party in El Salvador are stationed at voting boxes to advocate for their party's candidate. These advocates are known as Vigilantes.

Branham compared elections in El Salvador to a football game. Carnivals and parties are hosted before elections to promote various candidates and their political party.

"We want to see free and fair elections," says Branham. "We go as peacemakers."

In 1992, El Salvador ended a 12-year civil war. The country continues to be divided among its six political parties. Branham believes that the conflicts are spiritual issues resulted from the war.

"A nation divided by civil war needs spiritual intervention for true healing," Branham says. "We believe that we impact and help bring about that healing with our prayers and presence there."

ORU alumnus Albert Rodriguez arranged for students to become part of the El Salvador election process. His father, Manuel Rodriguez, is a member of the El Salvador congress and invited ORU students to serve as a sanction group.

Branham has previously taken 16 ORU students to observe a presidential election in El Salvador in 2009. For more information on the History, Humanities and Government department, go to http://www.oru.edu/academics/coacs/hhg/.