On April 23, the President of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela, Tibisay Lucena, officially presented the Integrated Authentication System (SAI), which is to be used for the first time in the upcoming October 7th presidential election in Venezuela. This device allows for the authentication of the voter using his or her biometric information in order to start the voting process and guarantee the one voter, one vote principle.
Although it is true that Venezuelans have shown a great disposition to the adoption of e-voting technology, it is only natural to expect certain sectors of the population to object to the new system. Skepticism can come fueled by fear that vote secrecy will be violated, that the voting process will slow down, or simply by the distrust of facing a new technology. Given the fact that the adoption of electoral technology is extremely important to this blog, we address these three issues separately:
1) Vote secrecy: According to electoral authorities —and as will be confirmed through software and hardware check-ups by different political actors—, vote secrecy is not at risk, as the biometric information used by SAI is stored separately from electoral information (ballots) in the voting machine. Besides, it does not allow information crossover. It is important to highlight that the fingerprint and vote registries are stored in different random sequences. The most important is that technicians from the political parties can audit all of this.
2) About the Alleged Sluggishness of the Process: Until now, the electoral body is in possession of 16,843,542 scanned fingerprints, that is, 93% of the electoral roll. Some political sectors have expressed their worry about the amount of people whose biometrical registry is still pending. They think the influx of voters could be interrupted when these people use the SAI. In order to avoid any inconvenient in this matter, the electoral authorities have designed a process for the amount of fingerprints —1,247,297, to be exact— that are pending to be scanned by the National Electoral Council (CNE) on a special campaign called “Pon tu huella” (“Leave your fingerprint”). In case a voter runs into trouble with his or her fingerprint during Election Day, the CNE has created a protocol to avoid the process from stopping. The voter will have to give way to the next person and fill up a regularization form through which the necessary information will be gathered. Later on, the voter will register his or her fingerprint and continue the voting process normally.
3) Adoption of new technologies: According to the Technology Adoption Life Cycle proposed by Bohlen, Beal, and Rogers, from Iowa State University, it is natural to expect people to show a tendency different to the adoption of new technologies. In the continuum that ranges from innovators (2.5% of the population) to laggards (16%), we can also find early adopters (13.5%), first majority (34%), and late majority (34%), which adopt technologies at different levels of acceptance. According to this model, it is logical to expect reticence due to the nature or personality of the population. However, as long as people find practical utility to this technology and find it easy to use, the adoption process will be faster, especially because Venezuelan voters are familiar to the use of technology.
After eight years of electoral process automation, the vast majority of Venezuelans has exerted their right to suffrage using voting technologies. According to a poll carried out by Datanálisis in March 2012, 92.6% of Venezuelans think that voting with Smartmatic technology is very easy or easy. It would be expected then that the new device for verifying voter’s identity will be assimilated smoothly.