Ecuador is committed to automating its electoral system by 2017. The goal looks attainable more than two years away from the deadline, as the country has been preparing to migrate from manual to electronic voting, keeping in mind all the steps that guarantee the successful adoption of electoral technology.
Last February, the country experienced a binding pilot test that cleared all doubts about the efficacy of vote automation. The provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas tested two kinds of electoral technology, which not only enabled nearly one million Ecuadorians to vote securely—according to the electoral body— but also helped to determine the financial and logistic requirements of extending the use of technology throughout the nation.
For example, in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the National Electoral Council (CNE) certified the ease of use of the devices provided by Smartmatic, in which voters’ interaction with the touchscreen machines was simple and quick. The electoral body highlighted the optimal performance in the capture, counting, totaling, and transmission of votes, which made it possible to publish results with 99% of the tally just one hour after the polling stations closed. Besides, audits were performed after the election, which matched the automated results with manual counts of vote receipts emitted by the machines.
In Azuay, where machines provided by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) were used, the process was also positive in spite of the suspension of elections at the Ponce Enríquez district. Rather than e-voting, this system is based on electronic tallying, since the machines do not register votes but a chip on each ballot stores each vote in order to be counted later. The obstacles faced by this mode were eventually overcome and the process continued normally, which led the authorities to highlight the strength of the technology to solve contingencies.
After this experience, the National Electoral Council announced that it would follow the recommendations from the Electoral Mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE), inviting the country to carry out a compared evaluation of the automated practices employed and define the technological solution to be applied, considering the recommended criteria regarding blank votes, single screens, voting booth upgrades, among others.
Trust in every electoral system is based on it being capable of registering votes faithfully, preserving their secrecy—both in terms of selected options and voter identity—, arrive at tally results that respect the voters’ selections, guarantee that results cannot be altered, enable the auditability of the processes, and make the voting method easy for everyone. Compliance with these demands makes an electoral process efficient and reliable, and that is Ecuador’s bet for the future.