Low turnout in Jalisco voting simulation shows irregularities

The migration process to electronic voting in Mexico, for which the state of Jalisco served as a testing ground, has had a series of setbacks, going from a questionable bidding process to the IEPC’s defense (Mexican institute for elections and civil participation) of the voting simulation on March 27, an event that was marred by low turnout and failures in the consolidation of results.

Information from the Mexican press shows that 40% of the equipment malfunctioned. However, the IEPC rejected these versions and, through a press release, informed that only 30 machines out of the 477 in the test showed irregularities. They added that it amounted to little more than 6% of them.

Besides, the organism commented that such voting simulations have as their main goal to highlight what improvements need to be made on the equipments, and that the malfunctions that took place have already been solved.

The Mexican Electoral Institute scheduled 5 voting simulations before the presidential elections of July 1st

If we analyze the road that Mexico has taken in to implement electronic voting, it’s not strange to see that beside the technical hurdles that need to be overcome, the country also needs to face the mistrust that’s taking hold in the electorate. A study from the Sociology Department of the Universidad Autónoma de México (UAM) en Iztapalapa, concluded that 75% of the young Mexicans surveyed will not participate in the upcoming elections due to several reasons, one of them being that the scenario for the debut of electronic voting in Mexico doesn’t seem to be encouraging.

The results of this public opinion study were proven by the low turnout for the first e-voting simulation, which took place in Jalisco’s district 17 (composed of 18 municipalities), together with district 1 and Gómez Farías municipality; these are the areas that will implement electronic voting in the upcoming July elections.

According to the president of Jocotepec municipality, Mario Chávez Morales, the expectation was that a good percentage of the electorate in the area would participate in the simulation, but the numbers were well below expectations. Out of 30 thousand potential voters in the municipality, only two thousand (6.6%) took part in the first test of the e-voting system.

We’ll have to wait and see how the 4 remaining tests go. The IEPC announced that the dates proposed for these simulations would be Sunday Apr. 15, May 6 and 27, and June 17, right before the July 2012 presidential elections.

There are still 4 voting simulations to go. Source: http://www.iepcjalisco.org.mx

In light of the Mexican experience, we must insist that it is of the utmost importance that countries meet the international standards of bidding when it comes to e-voting: allowing as many companies as possible to participate, demanding proven experience in the area, designing a non-restrictive list of demands and choosing systems that can be audited in software, hardware and results.

Not having a transparent process focused on finding the best technology can lead to scenarios like the one in Mexico, where the company that was selected, Pounce Consulting, far from highlighting the benefits that e-voting offers to the world (speed, security, transparency), is generating doubts and criticisms that may work against the much anticipated automation of the general elections.

Voting technology is myth-proof

Training programs are vital to the efficiency of the electronic voting process.

The penetration of e-voting has been followed by the doubts about it being cleared; however, some of these doubts have been elevated to the category of myths. Beyond studies, theories or simulations, the automation of electoral processes (present in more than 30 countries today) has been able to refute in practice all the criticisms against its validity, one by one; it has proven that voting through machines is not only possible, but it also safeguards all the guarantees inherent to voting: it keeps the vote free, universal, direct and secret.Although the successful application of e-voting around the world contradicts the suggestions and affirmations of several specialists and politicians, some ideas are still widespread. Two of the ones used more often to stop automation have to do with the age of the voters: the assumption that technology alienates senior citizens, and that this same technology is not enough to encourage the youngest demographic, who are traditionally unwilling to vote.

Both theories belong to the arsenal that is usually deployed to pressure those countries that wish to modernize their electoral systems. However, technology has always proven itself in fields as disparate as finances, mass distribution systems, the car industry or banking, and it has done as well when it comes to electoral matters.

A proof of this is that countries where e-voting is in advanced stages, such as Brazil, India, Estonia and Venezuela, voter participation is the same all over the age spectrum; on the contrary, the use of technology has promoted turnout. Public opinion studies carried out in Venezuela show that, consistently, close to 90% of the population habilitated to vote (over 18 years of age) considers that using voting machines is simple; this idea is held by people of all socio-economic strata and all age groups. Besides, 75% of the people surveyed prefer automated elections over manual ones, naming their speed, transparency and trust in their results as reasons.

Technology can be a magnet that pulls the youth toward the polling stations.

The attacks against electronic voting based on the premise that the elderly have a hard time understanding automated processes (and that said processes can drive away voters) have been proven wrong in all these countries. The development of machines and automated ballots actually makes voting simpler and adequate information policies together with voting simulations have contributed to make the voting population knowledgeable about the process, so they can participate in it efficiently.

Another sector that has been influenced by e-voting is the youth. In these countries, voting participation by the youth is comparable to those in other age groups, thus proving wrong the thesis that technology has failed to catch that sector of the population.

It was a recently announced that 1 out of 4 people in the world use voting machines to elect their representatives and leaders, a figure that is bound to grow given the known vices of manual voting (inconsistency in the voting registries, replacement of votes, tallying mistakes), and the fact that e-voting has advanced to the point of eliminating barriers to those with motor, visual or auditory disabilities.

There are no valid excuses against automated voting, and there are a significant number of countries already in line to try and analyze which system better adapts to their characteristics and laws. Such is the future; any political or economic interests that oppose it will be eventually removed by reason. Voting must be preserved, and technology is the right ally for it.

Colombia Seeks Suitable Electronic Voting for the Country

Colombia has already announced that 2014 will be the year when it will finally implement e-voting. In order to meet this deadline, the electoral body is looking for the best system to educate citizens in automation and to this end, it has started a process of comparative analysis of the different systems that are nowadays used around the world. The intention is to choose the technology that best suits their cultural, socioeconomic, and legal characteristics.