Electronic voting drove the debate during the extraordinary meeting of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE), which took place in Cuenca, Ecuador last week. 22 nations—out of 24 members—not only achieved reforms to boost the bloc’s activity, but also gave electoral automation a privileged place, as it was presented as the practice that could best preserve the people’s intent.
When UNIORE was created, in 1991, many American nations were struggling to strengthen their young democracies. Now, as a group that represents the electoral foundation of a region where the future of nations is decided through suffrage, the exchange of experiences becomes fundamental to guide the continent toward the best options to guarantee the right to vote.
Amidst the efforts made by countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Honduras to leverage e-voting, the meeting allowed to know the advances in pioneering countries in automation (Venezuela and Brazil) first-hand and also to give way to cooperation.
Domingo Paredes, president of the National Electoral Council of Ecuador, announced that a delegation from his country will visit Venezuela, Spain, and Argentina to evaluate electronic voting systems, automated tally, and other modalities of technologically-assisted suffrage. Ecuador aspires to modernize its voting system for the 2014 elections and expects to initiate the transition to e-voting in the province of Azuay, where elections will be automated with a budget of $7.8 million.
The many advantages of e-voting were also analyzed by the authorities. Mexico, which suffered the consequences of a doubtful tender process that delayed the application of electoral technology, brought up some of the benefits of automation: the decrease in costs due to the employment of fewer personnel, and the fact that human intervention, “which often entails error,” is reduced when an electronic system is installed.
The representative from Peru, Francisco Tavara, also stated that automation could be adapted to each country’s needs, and that the rhythm of implementation could be adjusted in order for the citizens and political parties to become familiar with the new system and trust it.
Inter-American electoral authorities are aware of the challenges the region is facing in its aim to guarantee robust electoral systems for its citizens. However, they also know that the road is not completely dark but full of successful experiences from countries that have safe, efficient, and democratic e-voting models.