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.


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