Failed bid, untested voting machines hound upcoming Ecuador polls


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As Ecuador prepares to hold its general elections in less than a month, observers have expressed concerns over the use of an election technology which did not go through the regular procurement process.

This developed after the National Electoral Council (CNE) declared a failed bidding for the procurement of “service of data transmission between the CNE and the 1,818 Publication and Transmission Centers (Rtpa), used for the transmission of data from scanned precinct counts.”

Instead, the poll body has accepted a donation from the government of South Korea consisting of 2,000 digitalization and transmission machines.

Observers are worried, though, that the Korean machines will not be up to specifications.

While the CNE has expressed satisfaction over the system’s performance in a mock election, political parties have decried the lack of transparency in the testing. They are hoping that the next test on February 5 will shed light on their questions.

Former Dominican Republic president Leonel Fernández, who belongs to the observation team, said that he is concerned over several aspects of the polls including voter rolls, the IT system, and the scanners that will be used for the transmission of results.

In 2014, Ecuadorians had to endure a month-long delay before official results could be announced due to the failed performance of the Spanish company Scytl.  Now, voters are hoping against hope that the untried donated technology will somehow suit the country’s complex election needs.

Seventy-nine elections around the world in 2017


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According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a total of 79 elections will take place around the globe in 2017. Forty-six countries in all five continents will go to the polls to choose their presidents and lawmakers.

Africa and Asia lead the list with 12 nations in each continent holding election while 10 European countries will also conduct theirs.

While the rise of radicalism is stoking fears in countries such as France and Germany, concerns about electoral practices preoccupy Rwanda, Congo and some South American nations.

The first nation to hold elections in South America will be Ecuador. On February 17th, the country will choose a successor for Rafael Correa who has been president for 10 years). It will also be a litmus test for the election machines it borrowed from Korea, which the country was forced to use after its poll body declared a failure of bidding.

Peru is scheduled to hold municipal elections in some districts on March 12th.  Many are worried that the lack of commitment by the authorities would prevent the rest of the country from using the e-voting mechanism designed by the country’s National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe).  Although 19 electoral circuits have voted using machines for some years, the jurisdictions electing their mayors this year will have to settle for the same manual voting that prevented them from getting timely results during the presidential election last year.  In that occasion, the nation had to wait for a week to get the official results.

In November, Chile and Honduras also go to the polls to elect their presidencies, while the Central American nation will additionally choose their members of congress.

The November 19 Chile could also serve as a reboot of the country’s electoral system which is currently beset with voter apathy with abstention reaching around 60%. Meanwhile, Hondurans, who will go to the polls on November 30th, must speed up their discussion on electoral reforms if they wish to see any improvements in the short term.

Regional elections in Venezuela are scheduled to take place in the first semester of the year, while local elections should take place near the end of 2017. The country has been positive case study of electoral automation.  Helped by the multinational Smartmatic, Venezuelans have held over a dozen successful electronic elections. The country has been on the cutting edge of election technology, pioneering the use of voting machines that biometrically identify voters, touch screens, electronic ballots, printed voting vouchers, and automated procedures for vote tallying and results transmission.

Electoral commissions in Latin America are virtual hives of activity when it comes to the latest electoral technology. Venezuela is set to cement its leadership in e-voting , Peru and Ecuador are expected to continue pushing toward modernization, while Honduras and Chile find themselves at a crossroads — innovate or be left behind.

Recap of 2016 electoral events


Foto: tolteca-guillermomarin.blogspot.com

2016 was a banner year for elections with over 30 countries in all continents carrying out a total of 133 elections.  Total voter turnout amounted to some 757.6 million people.

In the Americas, 2016 was a particularly busy year with two most populated countries (Brazil and the USA) going to the polls.

The contrast between manual and electronic elections was made more evident as  e-voting pioneers Brazil and the USA underscored the immense benefits of technology while countries like Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ecuador held out, stubbornly refusing to modernize and thereby, as in the case of DR, imperiling its very democracy.

Let us take a more detailed look at events.

United States

US voters elected their new leaders on November 8.  Despite all the noise about the possibility of hackers tampering with the vote, the elections went smoothly.

The unabated proliferation of fake news took everyone by surprise and yet the voting itself experienced no problems.  In the state of Wisconsin, where a recount took place, it was proved that when technology is properly implemented, the risks of the people’s will being tampered with are minimal, if not null.

Brazil

In October, Brazil deployed its huge e-voting platform boasting of some 450k voting machines. These were used for municipal elections where over 5,500 offices were to be elected.

Despite the enormous political turmoil the country is experiencing, the country took a step forward in its political recovery with these elections.

Peru

The political tension which arose from the close results of the Peruvian presidential elections made the final push for automation an imperative.

The July 5th polls saw a neck and neck contest between the top contenders and revealed how ill-prepared the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) was in dealing  with a highly polarized nation. Although the country already has legislation to modernize voting, and has even designed an electronic vote model that has been under testing for years, the electoral authorities have been dragging its feet in rolling out e-voting.

Dominican Republic

2016 proved to be a rocky year for the DR. Its Central Electoral Board hired Spanish-based Indra Sistemas to provide biometric identification and automated voting technology for the May 15 polls.

Unfortunately, technical and operational errors plagued the implementation of both the fingerprint capture devices and the vote counting machines.  The problem was so bad that the Organization of American States (OAS) was prompted to say  that “the weakest point of the day was the use of voting machines, since they were missing from several polling centres or had connectivity or operation problems.”

The poll body has recommended to review and audit the entire platform.

Haiti

The November 20th Haitian elections showed that the country is still heavily dependent on international aid to mount elections. Although it managed, however barely, to pull off the last general election (whose final results were delayed for weeks, triggering accusations of fraud), the experience made it clear that the country should lose no time modernizing its polls.

Ecuador

After piloting an e-voting system where 100% automated models showed their superiority over those that only automate vote counts, The Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) surprised everyone by abandoning the initiative.  Even more baffling, it declared the two bidding processes scheduled to purchase results transmission technology to be “deserted”.

Instead, the poll body decided to accept a donation from the government of South Korea of 2,000 digitalization and transmission devices of precinct counts. To date, little is known about the systems on which the broadcast of results will be relying. What we do know is that the technology will merely scan and digitize manually filled out precinct counts.