Last October 26th, Brazil and Uruguay carried out different electoral events. Both nations held presidential elections uneventfully. However, upon evaluation of the performance of their electoral systems, substantial differences arise: while Brazilians got fast official results leveraged by e-voting, Uruguayans, stuck to manual suffrage, had to settle with a slow tallying and unofficial results.
Describing how the electoral process is closed in Brazil would be enough to illustrate the electoral gap between these two South American countries. As in other regions with e-voting, at the end of the election, tallying and aggregation are carried out automatically, and the transmission of results is done through wired, wireless, or satellite networks, all of which arrives at the results in short times.
During the electoral runoff—where Ms. Dilma Rousseff was re-elected—the electronic voting system made it possible to count more than 140 million votes in barely three hours, where 105,476,578 votes were for the presidency and 35,136,837 votes were for 15 state governments. Besides, since the law authorizes to disclose results to the citizens practically in real time, that is, soon after the polling stations are closed and counting starts, the world was able to witness the progress of aggregation at the website of the High Electoral Court. Moreover, the guarantee offered by the automated counting prevented the narrow gap between the candidates (3.2%) from generating doubts or friction.
That same day was very different for Uruguay. Although the electoral event concluded peacefully, voters were unable to get official information at the end of the election, as the manual system used did not have the capacity to offer results on Election Day. The electoral dynamics in the country include the fact that polling firms are the ones delivering the first trends, while the Electoral Court offers a primary count the day after the election, which could have errors. It’s only six to seven days later that the official data from the count is released.
During this presidential election, the country had to wait until November 1st —six days after voting— in order to get to know the definitive results. This situation will repeat itself next November 30th, at the presidential runoff.
Having seen the tremendous difference between Brazil and Uruguay, the reason that speed is one of the most praised benefits of automated elections is the fact that manual voting makes it difficult to yield timely results. This has generated somber episodes, even tragedies, due to the association between the delay in the count and delivery of results with electoral fraud and manipulation.
Thus, with e-voting, time in the electoral process becomes relevant, not because of how long the electoral event might take, but because system automation, aside from making voting easier and speedier, ensures that suffrage yields results adjusted to the citizens’ intent, and delivers them timely, guarantees that are impossible to match with manual voting.