Ecuador is ready to automate elections


Smartmatic’s machines were used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Photo: La República

Ecuador will decide whether or not to automate its elections based on experience. To this end, last February 23rd it carried out a binding e-voting test during the provincial elections.

Three different technologies were used in three different constituencies. Now, given the success of the event, in which a rapid process was delivered, authorities face the challenge of choosing the best technology to offer Ecuador a modern, safe, and transparent suffrage through the implementation of electronic voting.

Although it’s been only a few days since the elections, the country keeps moving forward. The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Domingo Paredes, disclosed that next April a special team will be assembled in order to seek “a technological solution for e-voting in Ecuador.”


Azuay used Argentinian technology provided by MSA. Photo: La Hora

During the municipal elections, voters in Azuay, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and La Morita in Pichincha used technologies employed in Argentina, Venezuela, and Russia, respectively. In the two first constituencies, e-voting was binding, and therefore fundamental in the decision of automating Ecuador’s system.

For example, in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, CNE certified the ease of use of the machines provided by Smartmatic, where the interaction of votes with the touchscreen devices was simple and fast. The electoral body highlighted the optimum performance in capturing, tallying, aggregating, and transmitting votes, which allowed announcing the results barely an hour after closing the polling stations. Besides, there was an audit carried out subsequently, comparing the automated results with a manual count of voting receipts emitted by the machines.

In Azuay, where machines from Magic Software Argentina (MSA) were used, the process was also positive. In spite of the suspension of elections in the Ponce Enríquez district due to technology glitches, the pilot was deemed successful. More than e-voting, this system is electronic counting, as the equipment does not register suffrage but a chip in the ballot stores it in order to be tallied later.

In La Morita there was only a non-binding experiment carried out with 4 Russian voting machines and 194 voters.

To automate the tallying of results for manual elections in the rest of the country, CNE hired Scytl. Failures in the system —not yet disclosed, but acknowledged— hindered the release of the official data. Prior to the election, authorities promised to deliver official results 48 hours after e-day, but one week has gone by and the processing of data still hasn’t ended. Scytl blamed the failure on delays in bringing minutes for scanning, processing, and transmitting, but CNE is considering applying penalties for non-compliance with their contract.

After this experience, Ecuador has what it takes to face the challenge of automating suffrage. Electronic voting is the answer. To achieve this, it will need technical and logistic support.

It is time to move forward, and based on what we have seen, this country is ready to do it.


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