Peru stumbles in its goal of expanding electoral automation


The equipment used in Peru caused delays in the process. Photo: La República

All’s wrong that ends wrong. This sentence could apply perfectly to Peru, a nation that announced the extension of its electoral automation from one to seven districts, but executed it away from the public view. Now, after the October 5th regional and municipal elections, the nation must face accusations of fraud and system malfunction, doubts over the choice of technology, and even civil riots.

The progress of e-voting was notified by the National Office for Electoral Processes (Onpe) just last August, when the agency had to respond to intense questioning about the contract being awarded to Spain’s Scytl, the only participating company; about the process being carried out in absolute secrecy, and about the fact that Scytl Peru’s Project Manager is Raúl Murga Fernández, the former IT Manager of the electoral body until May 2013.

The results from the October 5 elections were also a matter for questioning, as people in the Pucusana district staged a protest before the municipality, and the Attorney General now is about to investigate fraud allegations. Besides, all the districts that used electoral automation experienced multiple problems, including lack of training affecting technicians, polling station officers, and voters. This caused significant delays in the system installation due to the lack of knowledge on how to use the machines, and delays in the voting process due to problems with the application used to unblock the polling booth with smart cards and to print vote receipts.

Moreover, Scytl’s system could not provide Peru with one of the most basic benefits of e-voting: speed. Although there were only 186 polling stations with 34,672 registered voters, Onpe had to wait more than seven hours after closing the polling stations to deliver the results of the seven districts with voting machines.

What happened during these elections runs in deep contrast with the country’s previous experiences in e-voting. Onpe had designed a voting machine and a system that had enabled the country to partially automate different elections successfully. However, by moving the tender process away from the transparency needed to select the most suitable technology for the country, it has taken a step back and has jeopardized the process of migration from manual to electronic voting.

Political organizations, citizens, and stakeholders had shown their trust in automation due to the previous success using Onpe’s technology. However, now the entity will have to perform extra work not only to improve the system, but also to regain the country’s trust.

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