This Sunday, Costa Rica will experience an electoral event of utmost importance. While the people choose the new President of their country, two vice-presidents, and 57 deputies to comprise the Congress, this event will also show the nation the technology it seeks to adopt for the 2016 elections. Voters in 50 polling stations will be able to interact with voting machines that will automate suffrage in the near future.
In its attempt to renovate the electoral system in order to lighten the burden put on polling station officers, as well as to safeguard results and optimize the process of vote tallying and aggregation, the country has set itself to design a piece of software that enables e-voting. The High Electoral Court (TSE) finished work last year and decided to test out the automated system during the February 2 elections for citizens living abroad.
The plans involved bu
ying the equipment where the software would be installed, which was done last August. The implementation schedule demanded the conduction of six tests to allow 82% of the 12,654 Costa Ricans registered to vote abroad to exert their right in an automated way.
The two first tests threw results that asked for changes suggested by the political parties —inclusion of blank vote—, as well as other technical aspects proposed by the Organization of American States (OAS). Although planning advanced significantly, last December Costa Rica decided to delay the automated election, as it was running out of time to carry out the last four tests demanded by the TSE in order to support this technology.
The e-voting model the nation has begun to test out resembles the one used by countries such as the US and Venezuela, at least in its basic features. It is based on a touchscreen device where voters can press on their selected choices, and which later prints a vo
te receipt on paper in order for citizens to verify that their vote was correct and to keep a printed backup of their selection.
Even though the implementation process is meeting the demands of the electoral body, Costa Rica was right in suspending the electronic appointment. Best practices and the need for transparency towards the country demand the execution of all technical stages of training and organization, which allow e-voting to highlight the essence of suffrage and technology’s potential.
Next Sunday, more than three million
Costa Ricans will attend the polling stations to strengthen their democratic ideals, but they will do so with their eyes fixed upon e-voting, acknowledging that technology can be efficiently made available to the people’s intent