The 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.