Chile has a manual voting system and, truth be told, very little had been said about it until the municipal elections held in the South American nation last Sunday, October 28. Allegations of over a million votes lost, and a public and direct accusation of possible voter fraud by an individual, cast a shadow of doubt over the ballots for the Chilean people.
In Maule, Talca Province, the regional prosecution bureau is investigating an individual who is allegedly committed possible voting fraud in Linares commune. The spokesman for the prosecution, Roberto Navarro, stated: “there’s already a person under inverstigation, who testified after being caught with six different ballots marked for different candidates and two election certificates, because these materials should have been in possession of Servel personnel”.
Besides, regarding the allegation of a million votes lost, representatives of the Electoral Service (Servel) and the Ministry of the Interior have quickly refuted the facts and stated that there was no loss of votes, but “defective election certificates”. The Director of Servel, Juan Ignacio García, commented that “there are no lost votes, there are defective election certificates”. He added that the Ministry of the Interior delivers preeliminary results generated by a computer system that rejects those certificates which don’t meet the protocol, that is, those that don’t add up or have errors. It’s because of this that the full number of certificates can’t be seen.
The Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, stated that “the process continues to take place with the uttermost normality and within the time lapses set by the law”. He insisted that the 375 Tellers’ Colleges (the organisms that receive the election certificates) only carry out a full count at the end of the day. According to Ubilla, “the Tellers’ Colleges have to receive all the material to perform a definitive vote count; there are no lost votes here, not a million, not 600 thousand”.
There’s plenty of road ahead, and from a political standpoint, the Chilean society seems to be sending out a signal that’s been acknowledged even by President Sebastián Piñera, who recognized not only the setbacks of his party in terms of elected offices but also high voter abstention as problems of the election.
Another aspect to consider is that Chile is making voting voluntary for the first time, which could be a double-edged sword if we take into account the inconveniences that have ocurred in other provinces, such as in Renca, in the Metropolitan Region, where there’s a complaint regarding the loss of close to 8 thousand votes in the councilmen election.
All those arguments create the ideal scenario for Chilean authorities to start thinking about migrating to an automated voting system, one that motivates voters and generates trust, therefore contributing to civil participation and democracy in the South American nation.