The Argentinian province of Salta, which adopted e-voting in August 2009, carried out an electoral session last October 6th, which was criticized by citizens and politicians alike due to faults that had not happened in previous elections. This locale is a pioneer of automation in Argentina, but it made a faux pas that could have been avoided during this primary election.
Implementation of electoral technology demands rigorous processes, which in Salta’s case, were ignored at least in three key aspects: gradual application of technology, intense training of technicians and voters, and optimum production of the voting machines.
Suffrage was automated in Salta for the first time in April 2011, when the electronic ballot designed by a local company (MSA, Magic Software Argentina) was used for 33% of the electoral registry. The gradual implementation was expected to reach 100% of the registry by 2015. However, authorities decided speed up the adoption process and automate the all precincts this past election. Unfortunately, fatigue and frustration are the main results.
The provincial deputy pre-candidate from the Salta Popular Front, Jorge Guaymás, made it very clear: “electronic voting should have been implemented gradually,” because “many people were not familiar with the technology,” thus generating excessive delays during the process, and also causing mistakes and mistrust among the citizens.
This statement reveals that not only the electorate was not trained to vote with electronic ballots, but besides, in many polling stations, technical personnel was not trained either to carry out the process correctly.
This criticism went straight to the Electoral Court, where Deputy Javier David remarked that on top of the total lack of training, the ballot boxes failed. “The machines didn’t work properly. They were not printing, paper was going in a different direction, they froze several times. That was another weak spot,” he observed. Some even alleged that the machines broke and were rendered useless.
Some Salta media outlets gave their opinion about what happened during the election. Daniel Chocoba, Chief Deputy editor at El Tribuno, wrote that while training and dissemination of the process failed, the authorities never explained why the complete implementation of e-voting was carried out two years in advance. Meanwhile, the Iruya newspaper mentioned that there was chaos due to the lack of preparation to carry out the election.
From beginning to end, electoral guarantees must be a clean process where problems are the exception and not the rule, as it happened in Salta. The first diagnosis dictates that shortening deadlines did not bring any benefit to a region that had started well in their use of e-voting.
Authorities must confront and transcend any particular interest, and put electoral guarantees at the top of the agenda. Relying upon companies with proven experience is fundamental to ensure an automation that highlights all the benefits of technology instead of leading to faults that have already been overcome by countries with a longer e-voting history.