Organizing elections is a complex and demanding enterprise that requires a combination of technical, logistical and HR factors to be successful. Meeting this demand clearly means that the electoral authorities and political figures cannot underestimate the time necessary to safeguard voting guarantees.
For starters, it must be said that organizing elections when automation is already in place is a radically different endeavour than carrying automated elections for the first time. The importance of this statement is made clearer when we see that a country with proven experience in e-voting doesn’t need to undergo the stages of consultation, research, bidding and technical tests prior to a first automated election.
The Venezuelan case showcases this distinction. This country has been advancing on the road to automation since 1998; at that time voting was still manual but the counting was electronic. This experience led to a 100% automated election in 2004, organized by Smartmatic (who provided services for the voting, counting, totalling and results transmission), and to incorporating in 2012 a biometric identification system nationwide. Today, the country can organize and cleanly execute different elections only 3 months apart, but it will be able to carry elections in 40 days following a constitutional mandate given the demise of President Hugo Chavez.
The possibility of carrying out elections with short notice while guaranteeing the processes is a feasible one, given the experience accumulated using these systems which have been proven time and again in the past nine years; several voting processes have been conducted without formal accusations of inconsistency or fraud. Currently the Venezuelan electoral authority is following a “tight schedule” that contemplates a battery of audits to all processes, so that the political parties can validate the software, hardware and every element of the Venezuelan e-voting experience.
The nations that wish to automate their voting system cannot afford to skip any of the steps that some 30 countries around the world have followed when modernizing their elections; these countries, which have legislations in place for e-voting, are home to over 1.7 billion people who can vote safely. Some of the considerations that must be taken, according to experts, include a wide-range consult of the population, carrying out comparative studies, applying pilot programs to test the system’s feasibility and its adaptation to the country’s characteristics, deploying a massive information and training campaign for the electorate and the technical personnel involved, and designing a gradual implementation plan that gives the nation time to adjust to e-voting.
The facts prove that in order to modernize voting in a country there’s no need to rush things; what is needed is responsible authorities that choose the system best suited for that nation. Current voting technology offers every tool to safeguard democracy’s main asset: the vote.