In 2013, Paraguay joined the elite of countries with electoral regulations for the implementation of e-voting. Unlike other nations, which have the legal framework to automate but whose authorities are reluctant to leave manual voting behind (like Peru and Colombia), this country is planning to make the definitive leap this year.
The Special Commission in charge of posing technical modifications into the voting process to make it safer and more transparent, proposed adopting Brazil’s e-voting model to the High Electoral Justice Court (TSJE).
This decision, which is based on last year’s experience, when 17,000 voting machines were used in different provinces, sets Paraguay at a crossroads between implementing the Brazilian system and looking for an alternate automated suffrage model.
The Brazilian voting machine consists of a small screen and a number keyboard where voters press the numbers corresponding to their candidates. Then they verify their vote on the picture displayed on the screen and press the “confirm” key to cast their ballot. The device allows casting blank or votes by punching random numbers and pressing “confirm.” The machine has two memory flash cards and a magnetic disk for storage. At the end of the process, different minutes are printed with the results of the vote—one of them is stored in the magnetic disk, which is transmitted to an aggregation center through a secure network.
Paraguay is considering suffrage automation with this e-voting mode in mind. This is good news for the country’s democracy, which seeks to overcome manual voting, pre-counting and voting minute scanning, facing the upcoming 2015 elections. However, the plan seems to have a few seams to it, as Paraguay will have to do with obsolete machines discarded by Brazil. Besides, Brazilian technology does not allow for voters to certify through a physical vote receipt that their will was effectively gathered.
According to electoral authorities, Brazil made available up to 17,000 voting machines that were scheduled to be destroyed in upcoming days due to obsolescence. The decision to automate suffrage could be Paraguay’s chance to eradicate the electoral vices that have tainted elections for years, but it will have to weigh in whether the need to modernize suffrage is worth sacrificing the possibility of a successful implementation for the upcoming elections. It is worth highlighting that the lifecycle of electoral technology is approximately 8 years long.
Under normal conditions, the choice of the most appropriate technology should include comparative studies and national and international tender processes to acquire the equipment and the software.
Although this country has already experimented with Brazil’s e-voting, obtaining good results, accepting the offer to use equipment that is about to be discarded during the next constitutional elections is a risk that might affect the near future of e-voting in Paraguay.