Elections in Haiti, 3 years late


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Haitians renewed their Parliament last August 9th (Photo: almomento.net)

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, will hold elections next August 9 -3 years after they were supposed to occur- to renew 138 Parliament posts (20 senators and 118 deputies) amid a deep political crisis that has already forced former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to resign. This delay has exacerbated the overall instability by causing major social frictions and further complicating an already compromised economic situation.

To help solve the current situation, various countries and multilateral bodies are injecting resources and lending technical support—as they have been doing since 2010, when a major earthquake devastated the country—. However, days away from the event, the aid seems insufficient.

In 2011, when the last election took place, Haitians had to wait for weeks to find out results. Although several countries had helped by providing financial support, the international community paid little effort to ensure the election was properly managed. Four years later, the situation remains more or less the same.

For example, while the Organization of American States (OAS) announced that it would send an observation mission, countries like Brazil, Canada, Norway, and the US approved funding a significant portion of the election costs ($70 million). Only Venezuela manifested that it would provide resources to streamline Haiti’s National Electoral Roll.

Given Haiti’s current situation, any form of aid is indeed necessary. Yet, there are pending technical issues that could compromise the success of the election which need to be resolved. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has explained that the parliamentary elections will be “the largest voting exercise in the history of the country,” as they imply enabling nearly 13,500 constituencies, 1,600 polling places, and printing 60 million ballots. Both the election and tally will be 100% manual. Besides, it will require the participation of more than 41,000 temporary workers to cover all the stages.

With this election, Haiti fulfills one of its pending appointments. The next task in its to-do list is the modernization of its electoral system. Perhaps by automating voting, efficiency and transparency will improve, and the nation will be likely to reduce its current outrageous cost of $14 per voter (there are currently around 5 million registered voters in the country).

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Córdoba sets standards for the use of e-voting in Argentina


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E-voting yielded positive results in Marcos Juárez and La Falda, municipalities of the Córdoba province in Argentina (Photo: http://www.diaadia.com.ar)

Recent elections in different Argentine provinces made it possible to consolidate the nation’s democratic system, and also defined benchmarks for the use of e-voting in the country.e

Two types of electoral technology were tested out during the July 5 elections in Buenos Aires and Córdoba. The performance of one type was vastly different from the other.

While Córdoba (specifically in the La Falda and Marcos Juárez municipalities) used technology provided by Smartmatic—which automates the most important stages of voting: capture, tally, aggregation, and transmission—, the capital of Argentina used the Single E-Ballot (BUE) provided by MSA (Magic Software Argentina), which only automates the tallying.

Results gathered by the electoral authorities and the media show that while in Córdoba the voting process progressed neatly and quickly and results were presented 45 minutes after the polling places were closed, Buenos Aires presented irregularities before and during the elections. In fact, 532 polling places were left untallied due to transmission flaws.

These results were discussed by the authorities and civil associations. For example, Luis Rubio, spokesman from the Supreme Court, stated that “by the early morning around 12 percent of the votes were left untallied and nobody said anything.” Governor José Manuel de la Sota also acknowledged that the single ballot’s counting system “made tallying slower.”

On the other hand, the secretary of the Electoral Court of Córdoba, María José Páez Molina, pointed out that the “(e-voting) process was carried out normally, meeting expectations, and posing no problem for voters.” The entity’s spokesman, Jorge Namur, added that the fact that the day was successful makes it possible to anticipate the extension of e-voting to the entire province.

A positive aspect in both electoral processes is the citizens’ willingness to use technology to vote. Córdoba Transparente, an organization that monitored the electoral process in La Falda, stated that the survey carried out on election day showed that 92% of the population considered that machine-assisted e-voting was easy to use, and 89% said the system was fast. In Buenos Aires, more than 70% of the people said that the electronic system is faster than the manual model.

After the event, Córdoba made it clear that it made the right choice in e-voting for its citizens. On the other hand, Buenos Aires still has pending work to do: it needs to seek a technology model that guarantees the process, and that automates not only the tallying, but the whole electoral process. Buenos Aires might as well follow the example set by La Falda and Marcos Juárez.

Single E-Ballot has come under scrutiny


elecciones-argentina21The July 5 provincial elections that took place in Argentina put the Single E-Ballot (BUE) under the spotlight. Although the ballot showed some positive aspects related to its performance, such as a fair acceptance from citizens and improved vote processing times, certain flaws were also detected that merit analysis in detail

Just 48 hours before the elections, a group of experts issued a document revealing that the e-ballot provided by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) could be “altered to add repeated votes for a single candidate on a single ballot.”

Aside from this accusation, an IT technician’s house was searched. The technician had revealed how the leakage of part of the source code of the electoral software (another irregular situation that took place before the process) could lead to altered results. Joaquín Sorianello explained that “the SSL certificates of the terminals sending data from schools (polling places) to data centers” had been leaked. These (leaked certificates) “might be used to send false tallying results.”

Instead of taking measures to enhance security, the authorities cornered the technician. The court that issued the search warrant against Sorianello waited until two days after the election to issue a ruling that required “blocking parts of the justpaste.it website, where the e-voting security system leaks were published.”

Uncertainty remains high in the wake of the election. While some candidates admitted that the e-ballot system did not work well across the city, civil organizations reported that “serious” problems arose. At least 532 polling places were left untallied due to transmission issues.

Besides, Beatriz Busaniche, from the Vía Libre Foundation, stated that “all institutional safeguards failed” in MSA’s implementation of electronic ballots.

Busaniche said that several irregular situations were evidenced toward the end of the electoral event: numerical inconsistencies, the fact that Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, one of the candidates, declared himself a winner despite having no official information, or equipment failures.

Although the authorities came to the defense of the e-ballot used in Buenos Aires and acknowledged the complications, they blamed their inaction on the lack of formal complaints filed before the electoral body. After a hearing with political groups, Electoral Secretary of the Court of Justice Alejandra Tadei stated that “none of them made any observation whatsoever about the election.”

Despite the fact that automation is a step forward, Buenos Aires needs to keep looking for sounder alternatives to guarantee more efficient elections without compromising the security and legitimacy of the votes.