Electoral expectations

Services marketing theory teaches us that customer satisfaction can be seen as the product of the interaction between the expectations customers have on a service and the experience of the service received. As long as the expectations resemble the experience, satisfaction increases.

Experience – Expectations = Satisfaction

This equation could be extrapolated to the electoral field if we consider that the same two forces, expectations and experience, move voters’ satisfaction with the results. In this case, expectations are generated by polls produced during the months previous to the election and by the political treatment that could be given to said surveys. On the other side, experience is the product of objective aspects such as, for example, those concerning the voting system (technology used, votes counted, sum of the minutes, etc.) and subjective aspects like the credibility of those managing the process.

To take these considerations into real life, let’s see what’s happening in Venezuela on occasion of the upcoming presidential elections to be held on October 7th, in which Henrique Capriles Radonski (HCR) and the current president, Hugo Chávez Frías (HCF), are the main actors. A study published recently by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which gathers the statistics of seven renowned pollsters in Venezuela, reveals five of them HCF having a two-digit advantage over his contender. The other two show a difference between the candidates lower than the error margin, which is considered a dead heat. Another aspect worth highlighting about this analysis is that there is an enormous difference between each of the pollsters regarding the number of people that don’t answer or that don’t manifest any preference.

Based on these figures, plus the historic performance of the pollsters, the analysis of the American banking institution gives a 15.9% advantage to HCF. In spite of this important difference, it leaves open possibilities for both candidates. Anyway, there is a lot of discrepancy between the pollsters, and this can generate false expectations leading to low satisfaction.

Regarding the service experience that Venezuelans will have, it is worth mentioning that the automated electoral system used in Venezuela has been audited by all of the political actors and is endorsed by the most prominent international observers.

Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and founder of the Carter Center, recently stated that the Venezuelan system is “the best electoral system in the world.” Therefore, in terms of the objective conditions of the expectations, there is little to be discussed.

In a nutshell, in the interest of the political strengthening of one of the oldest democracies in the continent, we hope that the entities that generate expectations, as well as those who condition the experience, understand the importance they have over electoral transparency.

The Oscars endorse electronic voting

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will take one of the most impressive leaps of its entire history, from the procedural point of view. Next year, the more than five thousand members of the Academy who are in charge of honoring cinema’s finest will cast their ballots for the Oscar prize through electronic voting. The way that the annual secret of the film industry will be revealed is going to be automated. Find out more details about this here (in Spanish).


E-voting, adaptable and safe

Between October and November, three countries in the Americas will go to the ballot boxes once again to reaffirm Democracy. At the same time, they will reassert their leadership in electoral technology before the whole world. E-voting experiences in Brazil, United States, and Venezuela, are being closely followed, as they are an example of the applicability of vote automation.

Brazilian ballot boxes have number keyboards and a biometric authentication device.

Studying the voting systems of these three countries allows not only to prove that with technological support, transparent and secure elections with fast results can be achieved, but also to make evident the fact that electronic voting is adaptable to any legal, technical, logistic and even idiosyncratic requirement demanded by a country.

In the case of Brazil—which began automation in the 90s—, its system was designed for the transition between manual and electronic voting to be dramatic to the least possible degree for its citizens. The formula that was applied consisted in reproducing paper ballot voting as closely as possible with an automated format. Thus, the Superior Electoral Court designed electoral ballot boxes with number keyboards so that each political party and each candidate would be identified with a number, replicating the selection method from traditional voting. This way, when voting, citizens mark their preferred numbers and the screen shows the candidate’s picture and number. For this southern giant, electronic voting is one of its main achievements, as it manages votes from 150 million people on a single day and shows results promptly. Next October 7th, Brazilians will vote to elect about 5,500 mayors, and if necessary, a second round will take place on the 28th of said month.

Venezuelans vote with touchscreen machines and electronic ballots.

Also on October 7th, Venezuela will hold elections, but to choose the President of the Republic. The implementation of electronic voting in this country during the late 90s was accompanied by strong political friction, which made the application difficult but also served as a platform for the automated system to adjust to all of the nation’s technical and legal necessities. Thus, from a first approach consisting in the automation of scrutiny while maintaining manual voting (1998), in 2004 the definite step towards a technology that attended all necessities was adopted. This technology has ranged from the use of electronic ballots resembling the old paper ones and the inclusion of software with digital signature or shared code between political parties, the electoral body and the providing company, all the way to voting receipts that make it possible to audit on site up to 54% of emitted votes in an election. Besides, in a few weeks it will start using biometric authentication devices to guarantee the one vote, one voter principle and eradicate identity theft for good.

Multiple e-voting systems are used in the US, as each county is free to choose what technology to employ.

The US will hold general elections on November 6, to elect President and Vice President, 33 Senators, the entire House of Representatives, 11 governors, and various State legislators. This country presents substantial differences from the aforementioned ones, as each one of the hundreds of counties comprising the Union manages all the aspects related to elections separately (from the purchase of material to the definition of procedures). Thus, each region has acquired the technology that best adapts to its laws and election methods, therefore ranging from manual voting and automated tallying (mechanical, punch cards and optical scanner) up to completely automated elections with touchscreen machines.

Brazil, the US, and Venezuela show other countries still entrenched in manual voting that electoral technology exists and is possible for all, no matter what their tradition dictates. E-voting is adaptable, so there is no excuse to take the leap to modernity.