Keys and Stages of E-voting

In Venezuela, voter registration was automated through biometric identification machines. This way, the one voter, one vote principle is preserved.

Right now, there is a group of Latin American countries on the path towards electoral automation. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama are some of them. All of them have made the decision to implement certain advances in their electoral systems, which starts by adjusting the law. Once this process is done, the analysis of the necessary steps to change the way voting is carried out begins.

Successful cases of automation in the world have been carried out with provision, including having the governmental authorities adjust their choice of electoral technology to what is most convenient to their system. Therefore, an evaluation of the local infrastructure must take place, taking into account any limiting factors that might appear. Also, its sustainability in time must be considered, and then the search and comparison of offers in the market begins.

Finding the most suitable automated model can be onerous, as there are various companies that provide this service, but when it comes to choosing, the strictest desire to acquire a system that guarantees security, secrecy and transparency of suffrage must prevail. The chosen system should also guarantee the advantages of e-voting: safety, speed, and auditability.

In order to fulfill this requirement, it is crucial to carry out a tender that complies with the highest standards, that is, a bid that contemplates an international call for electoral technology providers, who must prove their experience on the matter and are capable of offering an electronic voting model that is flexible and adjusted to the legal, technical, financial, and even idiosyncratic needs of the nation.

In this process, countries will find multiple opportunities to implement technology onto different stages prior to e-voting, which can become an incentive to speed up processes for the sake of the system’s total automation. For instance, the voter registry is one of the pre-electoral processes with strong technological assistance, which can include the electronic storage of citizens’ identity for an immediate comparison with the voter or support on automated electoral rolls.

There are voting machines that carry out vote scrutiny and tallying in an automated way.

The process of candidate nomination, which is the formal step through which political parties or other organizations apply for the registry of their candidates, can also make use of technology by automating the registry of candidate information and the different stages of the process (presentation, resignation, alliances, etc.).

Another technological advantage with a big chance of expansion in the world is the biometric authentication of the voter. This process allows, through the use of equipment designed to capture each voter’s fingerprint, to identify the person and thus avoid identity theft or double voting. Finally, two of the vital stages of every election, scrutiny and tallying, can also use the aid of technology before implementing electronic voting, with which speed and accurate results jump out as unquestionable benefits of automation.

Having adopted some of the pre-electoral technologies, transition to electronic voting becomes natural. At this point, it is worth highlighting that the process of substitution of traditional voting for electronic voting implies in most of the cases a stage of coexistence between both methods of vote emission. As a result, best practices suggest a progressive application, combined with pilots that allow people to become familiar with technology and check how voting can become safer and fairer.

Challenges are diverse in electoral matters, but it is necessary that the electoral body takes care of all the aspects concerning automation. Technology can be used to facilitate all these activities, but its correct and massive use will be what makes a difference against manual processes.

Egypt Made Evident the Need for Election Automation

Photo: EFE

For more than a year, Egypt has been experiencing enormous political and social transformations, which have led to decisive electoral processes in order to democratically choose both parliament chambers and the first democratic president in their millenary history.

The phenomenon known as the Arab Spring, which consisted in national uprisings in the North African countries, overthrew many dictatorial regimes that had lasted decades, and produced political and social changes in the region. The movement that began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010 with the overthrowing of Ben Ali, propagated to Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya. Right now Syria is under enormous protests.

After the overthrowing of its leader Hosni Mubarak, the Arab Republic of Egypt was ruled by a military coalition that allowed the organization of up to five national elections in a few months. In all of them, the weakness of budding Egyptian institutions and the typical problems of manual elections became notorious. During the second round of the presidential election, out of the total number of scrutinized votes (approximately 25,000,000), 843,000 (3.29%) were declared void. Electoral authorities took a whole week to offer the results of the elections held last June 16 and 17. During those days, great tension was generated in the already shaken nation.

As expected, both candidates proclaimed themselves winners and pointed that they would designate unity governments. Even though it is true that these were the first presidential elections in the country, and the lack of experience would probably be palpable, the limitations to presidential powers given by the military junta ruling the transition and the slight difference between the votes obtained by the two candidates produced a great tension in the country. The waiting week did nothing but aggravate the situation. In the end, Mohammed Morsi obtained 13.23 million votes while Ahmed Shafiq got 12.35 million.

Even taking into account Egypt’s little electoral experience, given the voting technologies that can be found in the market nowadays, these levels of delay and uncertainty are unacceptable for the stability of a nation that demands democracy. Egypt must modernize its electoral platform and get rid of any trace of backwardness and authoritarianism. From the generation of a reliable and modern electoral roll that uses biometrics for voter authentication to the use of voting machines to guarantee the correct registry and consolidation of votes, plus the announcement of results, Egypt must procure themselves the best available technology. Free, fair, and transparent elections are essential for a nation’s democratic transit. Automation is the next step that Egypt must follow in order to continue its freedom revolution.

Honduras Experiences First Approach to Electronic Voting

After the political crisis experienced by Honduras about three years ago, everything has gone back to normal. Now it looks like winds of modernization are coming to the electoral system. Electronic voting is a possibility that is being considered by the Supreme Electoral Court, maximum electoral authority in the Central American country.

The electoral institution, hand in hand with Smartmatic, presented a proposal to representatives from the political parties that will participate in an internal election next November. If this electoral modality gets accepted, electronic voting could be implemented in the province of Francisco Morazán.

“What needs to be analyzed is that if we solve the political problem that always arises with the 23 deputies, the controversy related to mayors, and if we eliminate resources such as paper ballots, certificates, and all that sort of logistics, then we will be able to see what this option means against the other,” considered the TSE Magistrate, Enrique Ortez Sequeira.

The parties received the information about the automated system. Source:

Mario Aguilar, representative from the National Party, favored automation and considered it a viable path for the November Primary Elections, “provided that an audit of the process is guaranteed for the participating parties.”

Representatives from Smartmatic explained to the leaders of the parties, at the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Court, the reliability of a correctly implemented electronic voting system.

The company, which intends to initiate vote automation, assured that it has ample experience in the US, South America (Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela), Asia, and most recently in Europe (Belgium).

Spokespeople from the company remarked that even though the initial investment is high, in time electronic voting becomes cheaper than manual voting. Besides, they presented some of its advantages like speed, reliability, and security, guaranteed by multiple levels of control mechanisms, as well as the frequent electoral audits the system is subjected to.

We’ll have to wait for the answer from the political parties, and see if it will be possible to initiate, even if only with one province, the path towards automation in Honduras.