After drills, e-voting in Ecuador is ready to go


Smartmatic’s machines have already arrived in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Photo: El Comercio.

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.

Audits seek to strengthen e-voting tested by Ecuador


Smartmatic’s machines are already in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Photo: El Comercio.

Electoral guarantees are the tools that allow a State and its voters to have safe electoral processes, but when it comes to e-voting, all eyes are fixed upon the security offered by the machines and the software designed to exert and process suffrage.

On its path to present the country with an automated system capable of adapting to its necessities, Ecuador did not only prepare a binding e-voting test that will be applied during the 23 February elections, but it will also use three technologies in different constituencies, and in two of them, Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the votes registered will be part of the final results. Besides, five audits will take place in order to prove the transparency of the process.

The National Electoral Council’s plan includes conducting five audits, starting one week before the elections. Delegates from political organizations and citizens interested in the process have been invited, and they will be able to carry out different levels of inspection, before, during, and after the electoral event.

The study will cover a pre-dispatch audit, which will verify the transportation of the machines to the electoral venues. Then they will test the installation software, the voting and scrutiny processes, the equipment, and the aggregation system database.

In Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas—where 326,915 citizens are qualified to vote—the machines and software that will be used will be provided by Smartmatic, a multinational company that has held elections in the Philippines, Belgium, Venezuela, the US, and Brazil. The audit possibilities offered by this technology are many, and it has been verified by international observation entities, such as the Carter Center and the European Union.

In the case of Azuay—with a voting registry of 600,000 voters—, e-voting from Magic Software Argentina (MSA) will be used. This technology is also used in the Argentinian province of Salta. The company is pretty scant in presenting the possibilities of auditing the system.

After this account of what Ecuador is preparing, it becomes apparent that complying with all the audits that are necessary to strengthen the security of the elections is one of the goals of e-voting, which is why it’s up to the authorities and parties to decide what revisions to apply to elicit trust from those who will commend their political future to voting machines.

Automation progresses at a strong pace in 2014

Six out of the nine Latin American nations that will carry out elections this year will undertake the task of partially automating their elections or will initiate the implementation of some form of electoral technology. Here is a review on their efforts in strengthening their democracies.