The recent events in Peru are a good example of how good news might not actually be so good. Although in the country it was announced that the use of e-voting, which was implemented for the first time in 2011, would be extended to seven districts for the next October 5 regional and municipal elections, the authorities have jeopardized the process by executing certain vital stages of the electoral process in the shadows.
A simple Internet search on the elections reveals that the citizens have been poorly informed about the proceedings of the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE) in the organization of the event, especially in terms of automation.
For example, the electoral body responded angrily to questionings about the guarantees of a tender process it had carried out, which led the country to find out that Scytl, a Spanish company, had been chosen for the development of the automated system’s software.
ONPE reacted to accusations against the assignment of the contract to the Spanish company and against the tender process itself. The process allegedly lacked the minimum conditions to guarantee its outcome based solely on technical and electoral interests, as well as on the suitability of the company’s technology.
At first, the tender process went practically incognito during its execution, which was against one of the requirements toward the acquisition of a transparent and efficient e-voting technology: to be done openly for the whole country to know and to allow as many companies as there are in the market to compete. In this case, the tender was called at the end of June and closed one month later, but it was only this week that the media were allowed to review its execution, and only because ONPE reacted to the accusations against the Spanish company.
The process was so airtight that only one company (Scytl) bid to provide electoral software solutions for e-voting and/or security audits. In spite of this, ONPE approved the contract. The fact that the company’s Project Manager is Raúl Murga Fernández, who was the electoral body’s System Manager until May 2013, entailed an additional ethical risk.
But not only the tender process is being questioned—Scytl itself is also under scrutiny. The company is currently undergoing a legal process in Ecuador, where the electoral body declared that Scytl breached its obligations, as the software designed for the digital reading of manual voting minutes failed. It was determined that the system’s errors had deterred the timely presentation of results.
With this outlook, less than two months before the Peruvian elections, the country doesn’t know yet what will be the system that will be deployed in the 7 districts scheduled to use e-voting. Word has it that it is a mechanism called “network voting.” However, there is absolutely no information regarding its functionality.
By ignoring and bypassing the accepted criteria for tender processes to comply with transparency standards, ONPE is putting its responsibility of delivering an automated system for optimum safe voting to the country under risk.