In many occasions, what starts badly will end badly. This may be Mexico’s case due to a bid that sparked all sorts of doubts and questionings and left electronic voting in the hands of a company that hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.
On January 15, Pounce Consulting was supposed to deliver the 1200 electronic ballot for which it had been hired, but the deadline has long passed and the Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute (IEPC) is still waiting for the equipment that is supposed to inaugurate e-voting in the state of Jalisco.
The fears hanging upon IEPC reinforce the scandal that surrounded the bidding process last year, because granting a contract without the guarantee that the selected company is capable of adhering to the proposed schedule, technical specs and equipment quality, hurts not only the public funds, but also the trust of the voters and political actors.
Pounce Consulting got the contract last October. However, it was done under suspicion due to serious claims of favoritism that even forced the Governor of Jalisco, Emilio González Márquez, to deny that he was promoting the company. The IEPC Director, Nauhcatzin Bravo Aguilar, also pointed out that the company had received preferential treatment, degenerating into a “fixed match” where it obtained “privileged information that allowed it to prepare an invincible technical proposal.”
This negative precedent is now reinforced with the delay in the delivery of the ballots (voting machines), which endangers the instauration of e-voting in Jalisco on July 1st. Voting is supposed to be automated in 40 districts of the state, but IEPC was forced to admit that e-voting will only be used if all guarantees are offered, and there are many doubts about this.
The electoral organism can only wait until February 24 for the delivery to take place, otherwise the voting schedule will overlap and it will be impossible to carry out a plan that guarantees the security, functionality and transparency of e-voting. In light of this outlook, we wonder: why did Jalisco choose to grant the bid to a company with no expertise in electoral technology? Why didn’t it hear the alarms sounded by the political actors? Why didn’t it follow the international recommendations for bidding e-voting? Why did it risk so much?
The answers will surely be many and very diverse, but Pounce has already shown its ineptitude as a tech provider. If it can’t guarantee the delivery of a thousand machines, it should declare itself unable to automate any other election in Mexico. A company is losing here, but the electoral organization is losing much more. Trust in democracy is not a game.