A look at the basis of electronic voting in Venezuela: SAES machines


The engine of any automated electoral process is the voting machine. How it works, what opportunities are offered and what guarantees are made available, are some of the most common questions usually made about the tools that technology has produced to make possible more rapid and secure elections.

In Latin America, Venezuela is leading the introduction of electronic voting, and in September 26th the country will test its automated system. Three machine models will be used by more than 17 million voters who will choose 165 deputies to the National Assembly and 12 representatives to the Latin American Parliament.

The machines used belong to the so-called SAES series, designed and manufactured by Smartmatic, a company that for six years has been the appointed provider for Venezuela’s electoral automation.

In 2004 the SAES-3000 machine was introduced to the Venezuelan  public. Since then, the SAES-3300 and SAES-3300 machines were introduced to gradually renew the technology in order to keep it updated. For voters, this translates into a more effective system having several improvements, keeping the ease of use and familiarity with the machines when voting.

SAES-4000: One of the newer models designed by Smartmatic. Its 10.4” touch screen gives great versatility, allowing it to be used in different types of elections. It weighs 5 kg and has a special module to facilitate voting for disabled people that can be optionally included depending on the requirements of the election. For the parliamentary elections of September 26th, most polling stations will have this model: a little over 25,000 SAES-4000 will be deployed throughout the country.

SAES-3300: Designed to withstand multiple-choice electoral processes, it incorporates a space on the screen to place additional information to the selection. It has a 10.1″ touch screen  and weighs 11 kg. On 26th September, there will be more than 6,000 polling stations with this model.

SAES-3000: This was Smartmatic’s first voting machine with touch technology. It was designed to be flexible, lightweight and portable, yet to be fully auditable. Its deployment in 2004 marked the first automated national election in the world that implemented the VVPAT concept in actual practice (VVPAT means Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail). Since then, the SAES-3000 has been further used in ten national elections. For the parliamentary elections, more than 3,000 SAES-3000 machines will be used.

The three models of voting machines used in Venezuela have the following characteristics:

•Encrypted information with multiple layers of security, using 2048-bit algorithms.

•Built-in printer to print vote paper slips (VVPAT’s) and tally sheets.

•Ability to communicate via telephone modem, cellular modem, satellite transmission and public and private IP networks (Ethernet).

•Ability to work in places with no electricity supply, using PL500 external batteries or car batteries.

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