Although Spain has been debating the implementation of e-voting for years, and has held numerous test runs (the first one in 1995, and the latest one in 2011 in the cities of Castellón, Ceuta, Huesca, and Mérida), no autonomous community has yet been able to set forth an automated election.
Although there seems to be a negative balance for the European nation in terms of electoral technology, last May 24, during its municipal elections, it took a step that brought it closer to a more modern voting: the Electronically Managed Polling Stations (MAE), which were used in 3,200 stations in 22 municipalities.
Minister of Home Affairs Jorge Fernández Díaz pointed out that the MAE “are not an e-voting system, but a system for speeding up the management of the electoral process, using technology to improve it without compromising its integrity.”
MAEs do not intervene in the voting process itself (vote collection, tallying, and result aggregation), but enable streamlining voter identity verification and the transmission of results to the data center.
The dynamics involved having polling stations deploy a laptop computer, a GPRS modem, an electronic ID card reader, a printer, and an SD card with the electoral roll of each constituency. Thus, the identity of voters was verified automatically by processing the ID in technological devices and not on a printed list. Besides, the confirmation of the polling station’s formation, advances in turnout and tallying were transmitted to the Information Collection Center through these technological tools.
The process was deemed positive in spite of some problems arising in some of the MAE. These were mainly due to damaged ID cards, which prevented the reader from verifying the cardholder’s identity, therefore having to turn to a manual method.
After the event, MAEs are seen as the first step toward transitioning from manual voting to electronic voting. However, they also spark the debate over the viability of stepping up the pace in the adoption of electoral technology, so that Spain can get up to level with its European peers (i.e., Switzerland) or even match the path so speedily and successfully traversed by Latin American countries (i.e., Venezuela and Brazil) in terms of electoral automation.