The transition from manual to electronic voting entails a series of technical, logistic, and political demands that are not easy to circumvent. However, Ecuador is moving forward confidently in this path. The country is about to carry out its first automated election test.
Next February 23rd, 2014, an operation will be launched to bring electoral technology to almost one million voters, about 8% of the 11.6 million people comprising the total electoral registry. The Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas provinces, as well as the La Morita district in Quito, will be the pioneers in the use of voting machines during the local elections where 23 province prefects, 221 mayors, 1,305 councilors, and 4,079 spokespeople from parish offices will be elected.
Two months before the event, looking at the activities deployed by Ecuador’s National Electoral Council, the effort is noteworthy, because the country didn’t only opt for testing out three technologies simultaneously, but it has also abided to the compliances of the key stages to implement electronic voting: national referendum, comparative studies of electoral technology, pilot test, voter and technician training, and information campaign. Many of these stages are currently under development, as is the case of voter training, a process that allows citizens to interact with the machines that they will use to exert their right to suffrage in February. Another resource employed in the interest of covering the largest amount of people from the electoral registry are the virtual simulators, talks, and workshops.
In the case of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the technology that Venezuela has been using for almost 10 years, provided by Smartmatic, will be used. The machines are capable of adjusting to the needs of any electoral system, as their design enables fast and easy voting thanks to their touchscreen and electronic ballots for multiple-post elections. Besides, they can store, tally, aggregate, and transmit the encrypted results, as well as print a vote receipt. Smartmatic’s electoral platform includes biometric authentication devices to avoid voters’ identity theft. All the process and the equipment can be audited before, during, and after the elections.
The same dynamics are carried out in Azuay, where the proprietary system of Argentina’s National Directorate of Electoral Services will be used. This consists of an electronic ballot box with smart ballots, which must be inserted in the machine to select the preferred options. Votes are stored in a chip and the machine allows blank and void votes. It also prints paper trails with the desired selection.
Ecuador has prepared itself and keeps pursuing the success of its e-voting pilot. After the elections, it will have the necessary experience and information to decide what technology it will apply from 2017—projected date for automation—and join the group of countries with advanced electoral systems.