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.
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.