The cards have been dealt in Ecuador. The e-voting pilot test scheduled for February 2014 —during regional elections— will submit the performance and scope of two electoral automation models to public scrutiny. These models will define the technology that the South American country will adopt to modernize its suffrage.
The session contemplates the implementation of Venezuela’s technology in the region of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, while the township of Azuay will employ the system used by Argentina. The test will bring e-voting for about one million Ecuadorians, 8% of the 11.6 million people in the registry.
Ecuador approached the Venezuelan model, compelled by the results that this country exhibits, as it has been using technology provided by the multinational Smartmatic since 2004 to fully automate its elections by using an advanced voting platform. Venezuela´s voting system comprises electronic ballots to facilitate vote capturing, biometric devices to authenticate voters by their fingerprint, and touchscreen voting machines to tally, and transmit results while safeguarding the secrecy of both the voter and the vote. The voting machines print a voting voucher for auditing.
The second system, created by Magic Software Argentina (MSA), consists of electronic voting ballot boxes with smart ballots. The ballot boxes stores votes on a chip, enables blank and void votes, and emits a paper receipt of each vote. Each voter must insert their ballot in the touchscreen device, where they select their voting preferences. These are stored in the chip to be counted later. The system’s software does not allow for the same ballot to be cast twice.
Venezuela and Argentina will be the protagonists of the historical event to be carried out by Ecuador. Although there may be similarities between both technologies, there are differences that will play a preponderant role when it comes to select and design e-voting for this Latin American country.
A clear example is the level of redundancy each technology provides. Redundancy is key to safeguard electoral data and enhance verifiability of the election. While the Venezuelan model stores each vote in two digital records and one on paper, the Argentinean solution only stores each vote in the chip. In case there is an accident or an irregularity with the hardware, electoral data will be lost.
It is also notable that the machines used in Venezuela have the capacity to store, count, aggregate, and transmit results as an integral process right after the election closes. Meanwhile, because the Argentinian system is based on vote recording and printing devices, there is no guarantee the vote will be counted once the voter leaves the polling station. This poses risks for the election.
Ecuador has already presented the voting machines in each of the regions and is preparing to train both technicians and voters. Now that it will have the chance to test the effectiveness of e-voting and compare the performance of two technologies, it will be in the privileged position to be able to decide its electoral future based on experience.