Probably under the assumption that one of the first steps that must be taken to protect and optimize the process of modernizing an electoral system is, at the very least, to hold a public debate on the subject, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) of the Dominican Republic organized the International Seminar “Elections and Technology”, which took place on August 21st and 22nd, where representatives from electoral bodies of several countries participated.
During the event, manual and electronic voting were carefully scrutinized, showing why technology has been replacing manual voting with the implementation of systems where machines and automated ballots, combined with tallying and totalization software, speed up the process and provide versatile control and safeguarding methods to the electoral system.
Roberto Rosario Márquez, the JCE chairman, admitted during his dissertation that in Dominican Republic “the absence of appropriate technology allowed for the occurrence of situations that did not generate trust in the results, and thus affected their legitimacy.” According to the chairman, this fostered changes that must now lead to the implementation of election automation.
Addressing the subject of the transition from manual to electronic voting, various specialists shared important recommendations in order to guarantee success in the implementation. One of the most conclusive ideas was given by Carina Perelli, former director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations. She warned the electoral bodies from the attending countries (El Salvador, Korea, Russia, Mexico, Costa Rica, among others) that “they should not let themselves be fooled by experts who try to sell technological solutions that are often not applicable to their realities and demands.”
The specialist recommended following the necessary stages to adopt technology safely and transparently, which include “conducting a study of what each nation requires in technological terms, before undertaking the purchase of any equipment,” and generating trust on the system by applying changes progressively.
The various advantages of e-voting were also analyzed by Mexico’s electoral authorities. This country suffered the consequences of a suspicious tender process three years ago, which delayed the implementation of e-voting. However, Enrique Andrade González, electoral counselor of the National Electoral Institute (INE) pointed out that the electoral body knows that technology is making it easier to carry out processes and to produce electoral documents, which is the reason why its implementation carries on toward using it in electoral auditing as well.
Thus, the debate confirmed that in order to guarantee the implementation of automation, each country must hold an ample nationwide consult, carry out comparative studies, summon a transparent tender process, implement pilot programs to test the reliability of the system and its adaptation to the country’s characteristics, deploy a wide information process, and design a progressive implementation plan that enables the whole nation to gradually adjust to e-voting.
The world’s best practices in automation show that the recommendations given in the Dominican Republic conform to what has been done by nations that now have automated systems accessible to voters and safeguarded against fraud.
Countries do not need to move at an accelerated pace or to improvise when it comes to transcendental decisions. What they need is to have responsible authorities that choose the most adequate system, as the currently available electoral technology offers all the necessary tools to safeguard the will of the people.