Change in Peruvian authorities sparks interest in e-voting


Since years, Peru has had the necessary legislation to modernize voting. This is why they have devoted large sums of money to the developement and progresive implementation of electronic voting. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges and demands that come from successfully implementing an automated voting model.

This story could change in the short term.  The exit of Mariano Cucho as head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), and his replacement by Adolfo Magno Castillo Meza has increased the interest to implement electoral technology in the next general elections.

In his first contacts with the media, Castillo Meza has shown a proclivity to take the steps the nation needs to modernize its elections. “We have to reinforce the use of electronic voting, so harshly criticized during the last elections, not because it’s bad, but because it left the feeling in the population that it wasn’t effective, there were complains about the software, we will carry out an audit to see whether there are failures or not in the design”, he stated.

Peru began its path toward automation in 2011, when the voting machine designed by the Onpe was used for the first time. This device has been used in over a dozen voting events, partially and with some effectiveness, but it has shown a critical performance since 2014. This, because there was not a transparent bid for the acquisition of the technology needed for expanding its use. Later on, both election logistics and preparation were neglected.

The Peruvian automated voting mechanism  consists in a card that, when introduced into the voting machine, activates the options or candidates on a touchscreen. The voter presses their choice and the system processes and stores the choice, before printing a voting voucher at the end.

Facing a revision of the system, the need to update the technology, the decision to invest resources to guarantee a secure and transparent adoption, and the commitment for national advances in electoral matters will be the key points to be addressed. This way, Peru could set foot on the road to electoral modernization once again.

Ecuador will have to push for the electoral technology it deserves


Ecuador is getting ready for the second presidential voting round on April 2nd.  Amid the political diatribe typical of an election, the strong delay in broadcasting the results of February 19th – only made final on March 7th- cast doubts on the performance of the National Electoral Council (CNE).

The mistrust is rooted on the CNE’s decision to improvise with the vote counting technology during the elections last month, despite having tested two e-voting systems during their Sectional Elections just three years ago; one of them, used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas produced results in only 50 minutes, while Azuay had them in 90.

In the face of these successful experiences, it is inexplicable that Ecuador went for a vote scanning solution using Korean scanners that had never been tested in an election, instead of following the roadmap set in 2014, when they used electoral technology that kept the election safe and emitted exact and quick results.

The imminent execution of the second voting round forbids any substantial changes to the counting mechanism chosen by the CNE. The organism’s highest authority, Juan Pablo Pozo, has admitted mistakes but foresees no changes in the medium or long term, which leaves it up to the citizens and political parties to pressure the organism into change.

The objective of the tests electoral commissions carry out to try different technologies is precisely being able to compare and evaluate the success factors of an automated election: speed, exactness and security.  The Ecuadorian CNE could compare the elections in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Azuay in 2014 versus the past February 19th elections and all the days the vote counting took; in the former cases, it took no longer than 72 hours to reach an irreversible official trend, whereas for the latter it took days.

The Korean machines and the transmission system used in the first round of the Ecuadorean presidential elections had never been used to tally votes.  The question is, then: Why, if Ecuador – and Juan Pablo Pozo himself – knows and has tested a technology that guarantees fast and transparent results, did it go for gifted machines that could not fulfil the objective of delivering a fast and secure count? What is the cost of an election whose results are questioned?

Finding an answer to these questions should be the goal of political activists and citizens: focusing on showing that Ecuador deserves proper and secure technology like the kind it employed in 2014.

Ecuador goes to the polls again


12.8 million Ecuadorians are called to vote on February 19th to elect a new President of the Republic, 137 members of the National Assembly and 5 legislators to the Andean Parliament.

For months, the country debated and questioned the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of accepting a “donation” of 2 thousand devices to be used for vote counting and the broadcast of results.

Until today, and after three simulations carried out during the preparation stage of the election, the authorities have limited themselves to communicate that the system is ready; however, they have not offered details on how the vote counting scanners performed.

Facing this lack of information, it is good to remember the critical steps Ecuador must take – steps on which its political and institutional stability will rest.

First, there is the matter of rapid counts, which are nothing but preliminary voting results.  During these elections, the CNE will debut this process, and it will be based in the selection of a random sample -between 25% and 30%-  of the Vote Reception Boards, i.e. the location where the certified election returns are tallied. A total of 9,617 people in the country were trained for this task.  Additionally, 650 people will operate the call centre that will receive the reports resulting from this quick count, so they are made public a few hours after the polls close.

The second step that calls for attention will be the scanning of the election returns.  CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo explained that as soon as the voting is over, the members of the Vote Reception Boards will begin the count and the filling of certified election returns, which will then be handed inside a sealed envelope to a collecting police officer so they are taken to the scanning area. There, the returns will be digitized and sent through an electronic system to be posted online and be made publicly accessible.

Although this mechanism may seem diligent, Pozo himself has stated that the official forecast is to present conclusive results five days after the polls close. This, given the country was satisfied with having only preliminary results on election day and using equipment that fails to improve the model, since the devices only scan and transmit manual election returns.

Next Sunday we will know if the statistical approximations of quick counts were enough or, to the contrary, if the country’s electorate and the political climate demanded expedient official results.  Right then is when the lack of a speedy vote processing system such as e-voting will be made evident.  The die is cast.  We can only wait.