During the past few weeks, Ecuador has carried out an intense agenda of tests and audits to shield the execution of the first automated binding elections in the country. On February 23, during the provincial elections, three electoral technologies will be used in three districts. In order to guarantee that the systems, equipment and logistics respond to the complexity and demands of the event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has decided to simulate each stage of the process.
Four drills took place in the municipalities of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, where the final automated events will also be held. Various tests were conducted to verify each process and debug the systems.
The CNE Vice President, Paúl Salazar, pointed out that the need to leverage the Integrated Electoral Administration System (SIAE), the pilot plans for e-voting in Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and the installation of the rapid count program will shape a 100% Ecuadorian IT system in 2017 in which these technological elements will be guarantee the transparency of each process.
In Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas —with 300,000 registered voters— machines and software provided by Smartmatic will be used. The drill involved the deployment of 61 precincts with 113 voting machines, which made it possible to put logistics (equipment installation and personnel training) to the test, while measuring at the same time the performance of the touchscreen devices, which capture, save, tally, aggregate, and transmit results. Besides, these machines print a voting receipt for each electoral operation performed, which enables on-site audits (right at the end of the event) or afterwards in order to compare manual scrutiny with the automated one.
In Azuay (600 voters), electronic ballots designed by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) will be employed. For the development of this exercise, 100 electoral precincts and 200 voting machines were set up. These devices have smart ballots, which must be inserted in the machines in order to register each vote. Votes are stored within a chip contained in the ballot, so each ballot must go through the machines after the election for scrutiny.
Together with the optimization of the processes, the drills helped to generate findings such as the average time citizens spend voting, which according to CNE is between 2 and 3 minutes. Moreover, the test revealed that the electoral body will have the possibility to emit results two hours after closing the polls.
Ecuador’s technical tests left the electoral system and e-voting ready to go for next February 23, when the country will elect 23 provincial prefects, 221 mayors, 1305 councilors, and 4079 spokespeople for the parish offices. CNE has indicated it is ready, and the even Electoral Observation Mission from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) applauded the country’s preparedness. The only thing left now is the massive attendance of voters in order to consolidate the use of technology in the defense and warranty of voting in this country.