Electoral Technology Seeks to Conquer Youths

Political activism is usually led by people with experience in electoral issues, whether it is because they have voted on other occasions, they sympathize with a particular political organization, or they are genuinely interested in having some influence over those who make decisions in a country.

Groups participating in electoral processes have people of all ages among their lines, but particularly the youngest have been hard to recruit into the democratic cause, and therefore, in the digital era, technology could be used as a powerful magnet.

The way technology can be employed best lies in the fact that those who are younger have become the main consumers of electronic devices of all kinds. Besides, they spend a large amount of time online, demanding technological applications to carry forward any process. The electoral system does not escape this trend.

Thus, the use of electronic voting can become a nations’ ally to attract youths to the ballot boxes, as simplifying suffrage can act as an incentive to vote. It is particularly true that the dynamism of automation, the simplicity of the process, the meticulous and fast results, and the added value of it being an eco-friendly system (as it does not need tons of paper), make the most advanced electoral system the ideal platform to invite the youngest citizens to participate.

recent study states that one out of four people in the world use voting machines to choose their representatives and governors. The penetration of electronic voting is not by chance, but the consequence of technological advance in all areas. If we trust that the money in our bank accounts can be transferred through technological operations, why can’t we trust our vote to be cast through automated processes?

The truth is that the implementation of electronic voting has been legally approved in many countries, but it has been delayed due to a few doubts and some more political interests. However, conquering the younger population in order for them to participate in the democratic dynamics could even prove to be an incentive for those with the power of decision to advance into modernity.

The youths are there, deeply submerged in the digital world. Now it’s only a matter of governments deciding to come closer and provide technology that increases electoral participation, for manual voting cannot beat the guarantees of electronic voting.

From Manual to Electronic Voting: Venezuela’s Success Story in Achieving Fairness and Trust

In spite of Venezuela’s prestige as a country with a strong democratic culture, its history of elections is not a fairy tale. Adopting electronic voting was the natural response to a public outcry for more transparent and efficient electoral processes and not the consequence of a capricious decision by an authority or government.

Until the full automation of the entire electoral process was achieved, there was a plethora of well-documented fraud claims that for years overshadowed some of the very unique and positive characteristics of the Venezuelan democratic tradition.

The phrase “acta mata voto” (“count kills vote”), which became a cliché during the sixties, seventies and eighties, denoted the common belief that official results of elections were seldom the reflection of the political will of the citizenry, but were often the result of negotiations among political elites.

One of the most publicly known electoral scandals, and perhaps the tipping point in the public opinion clearing the way toward automation of electoral processes in Venezuela, was the 1993 Presidential election, in which the former president Rafael Caldera was declared president for a second term. Doubts still remain about the validity of his triumph. Extremely slow counting, electoral material getting lost, and the fact that ballots were found in garbage dumps across the country are among the many reasons why the party Causa R firmly believes that Andres Velasquez was the real winner, except that a massive fraud was carried out.

Since 2004, the year Smartmatic was chosen to deploy its voting platform, Venezuela has had the capability of arriving at the results of extremely complex elections timely and accurately.

One such example took place during the 2007 referendum, where President Chavez’s constitutional amendment proposal was defeated. A few hours after the polls were closed, and immediately after the results were broadcast over state television, the President conceded defeat describing the results as a “photo finish”. Given the irrefutable evidence of the political reality expressed in the ballots, the President acted in consequence.

In the light of the high polarization of the political landscape, electronic voting has proven cardinal toward the nation’s stability. Among the many improvements it has brought forth to this 50-year-old democracy is the fact that the centralized nature of the electoral system allows small political organizations to be part of the multiple audits that take place before, during, and after each election. Throughout the age of manual voting, the hegemonic parties could easily perpetrate different types of electoral frauds, as smaller parties were unable to monitor voting procedures in all precincts.

The highly auditable voting system in force today, developed by the Dutch company Smartmatic, eliminated the possibility of any kind of manipulation. It isolates both programs and data from undue access and avoids inaccuracies during tabulation because the whole process is fully automated and truly auditable, as voting receipts produced by each machine allow both electors and authorities the opportunity to verify the votes registered by the machine. With this system, each citizen becomes an auditor.

Electronic voting has given electoral authorities and the process a level of credibility that could never be attained with manual voting. According to a market research carried out by the firm Datanálisis, 75% of the Venezuelan population prefers electronic voting to manual voting, or to any other system (7%).

A key indicator of the acceptance of electronic voting technology is the fact that even the former most vociferous opponents of electronic voting in the country now endorse the system, and in the last few years have even participated in various elections as candidates.

Venezuela has truly had a remarkable success story in achieving fairness and trust through electronic voting.

Colombia Considers Holding Automated Primary Elections

The South American country seems to be decided to implement electronic voting in 2014. In order to advance preparations for the use of electoral technology, the National Registrar, Carlos Ariel Sánchez, announced that if the government decides to hold primary elections this year, these will be automated with the purpose of measure the country’s ability to implement the use of voting machines.