2012: a year of consolidation for e-voting

Peru designed its own e-voting system, but the authorities still haven’t granted the resources needed to start its implementation.

The influence of e-voting in the world is no longer questioned. At the end of 2012, the Carter Center reported that over 1,7 billion people – out of the 7 billion inhabiting the planet – use voting machines to exercise the right that supports democracy: suffrage. This number reflects a consolidation of trust on an electoral system that provides security, transparency and speed for choosing the people’s representatives: e-voting.
The balance shows that trendsetters like Brazil, the US and Venezuela kept their status as leaders in voting automation, while Belgium, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador took important steps towards modernizing their voting systems.

Last July, this country tried out its first approach to e-voting. The Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) rolled out e-voting for the election of five spokespeople of the Rural Parish Board of La Esmeralda parish, located in Canton Montalvo (Los Rios). Through this voting pilot, citizens could validate the easy and proper operation of the new system; transmission took approximately 10 minutes after the voting ended, and the post-event election showed 100% exactness in the count, proving the elections were trustworthy and transparent.

On September 30th, the Pacarana Disctrict of Cañete province in Peru employed the e-voting system designed by the National Office of Electoral Process (ONPE) for the second time in its history. This system was designed with the purpose of modernizing voting in the country. Currently, the Office is still asking the Executive to provide the necessary resources for voting automation, a process that has a legal base but lacks financial support.

Brazil employs an e-ballot with a numerical keypad and a biometric identification device.

At various points during the year, the National Registry announced that the first stages towards automating elections in the country had been completed, and they could assure that the nation was checking every detail in order to benefit from e-voting in the near future. The institution stated that purging the voter registry and allowing the electronic registration of candidates, as the initial steps of voting automation, were proofs of the advances made.

The e-ballots designed by the Superior Electoral Court, which have a numerical keypad, were tested once again in Brazil. On October 7th, 150 million voters went to the polls to choose 5,500 mayors. Election Day went by without a hitch and with clean results, strengthening the automation present in the country since the 90’s.

After being a trailblazer of e-voting, this country fell behind due to their lack of disposition to modernize their systems. However, it was announced this year that a Smartmatic-designed voting system will be used in the country for the next 15 years.

Twice during the year (on October 7th and December 16th), this country held elections. The results of its 100% automated system were able to sort out not only to the country’s state of political polarization but also to complex multiple elections for governors and legislators. The technology provided by Smartmatic includes voting machines, e-ballots, biometric identification devices, digitally-signed software; an encryption code shared by the political parties, the voting authority and the company, and printed voting vouchers that allow an immediate audit of up to 54% of the votes cast.

United States
On November 6th, the North American giant went to the polls. This country has significant differences with those we have mentioned, since every individual county manages all the aspects related to an election (from the purchase of materials to the definition of procedures). This is how each region has acquired the technology that best suits its laws and voting ways, which range from manual voting with automated counting (mechanical, punch cards and optical scanners), to fully automated elections using touch-screen voting machines. States where the technology was updated showed no problems, unlike those where the voting platform hasn’t been modernized yet.


Voting safely with Venezuelan e-voting

Voting in Venezuela is 100% automated and has voting machines and electronic ballots. Photo: Mercadeo y Negocios.

Venezuela returned to the polling stations just over two months after electing their president. The new electoral event, which took place on December 16, 2012, subjected the renovation of 23 governors and 237 posts from regional parliaments to public scrutiny. The electoral dynamics forced some districts to hold elections for three posts, but in other areas voters had to cast their ballots up to six times.

Although at first glance multiple voting in a single election might seem complicated, the truth is that the democratic system is based on allowing the citizens to choose their representatives in all spaces of power, which is why they have to vote for several posts at once. This situation might be confusing, complicated, and even disadvantageous in some countries, mainly because of the use of manual voting. However, in Venezuela, e-voting sidesteps the difficulties, and it proved so once again last Sunday.

This country’s system is 100% automated—voter’s identification, voting, scrutiny, tally and transmission of results—and is based on technology provided by Smartmatic. For these elections, not only were touchscreen machines used—namely the SAES 3300, 4000, 4200 and 4300 models—, but also, due to the numerous candidate parties and posts in dispute, tactile electronic ballots were enabled. These made suffrage much easier, and proof of this is the fact that voters only took an average of one minute to vote.

The use of electronic ballots, with a dynamic and clear design, allowed the voter to cast his or her vote by pushing anywhere on the candidate party’s card (with an LED indicator confirming suffrage). It also allowed cross-selection—electing candidates from various parties—or voting just once for a single organization for all the posts. This last option is these elections’ novelty, and it was possible with the addition of a “select all” tab to the ballot card,which means that pressing this option chose all the posts in the constituency. With this technology, both nominal vote—by first name and family name—and list suffrage, which is a list of candidates the voter can’t read when voting, but whose political party he or she chooses from amongst the ballot cards, worked seamlessly.

The simplification of multiple voting is only possible with automation. There are many examples in the world of how manual voting hinders this process, especially in countries with old-fashioned systems that often generate null votes, whether it is because the voter does not differentiate between candidates or does not mark them correctly, or what’s worse, because the votes are not faithfully tallied, altering the electors’ decision.

International observers offered a preliminary declaration, where they highlighted “how fast and transparent” the automated system is, since even though 260 different posts were being elected and 17,421,946 electors had been summoned, the results were offered less than three hours after the polling stations were closed. The representative from the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (Uniore), Rosario Graciano, underscored the fact that e-voting worked perfectly and it’s a model that can be replicated throughout the hemisphere.

Having closed the process, Venezuela did it again: it offered its citizens an electoral system with the most advanced and effective technology, which protected vote secrecy and yielded clean results, thus allowing for the people’s intent to come out victorious.