2016 will put e-voting models to the test around the world


e-votingThe year 2016, which is still young, has a far-reaching electoral schedule.  According to the register of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), 30 countries in all five continents will go to the polls to elect Presidents, renew their Congresses or carry out referenda.

This electoral schedule will be especially intense in Africa and America, where eight nations in each continent will hold elections. Europe has seven scheduled elections, while Asia and Oceania have three each.

Among the European processes we can highlight the one in Switzerland, a pioneer nation when it comes to e-voting models, which will hold a referendum on February 28 where its citizens will be allowed to vote from home or any other place with an Internet connection.

In the case of America, both manual and automated elections will take place. For example, while Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Haiti will continue using outdated voting systems which have in the past raised allegations of fraud and mistrust, the United States and Venezuela will deploy their automated voting models.

On the other hand, Peru will continue trying to create their own e-voting model. The country’s electoral authorities are convinced of the benefits such system would bring to the nation. Therefore, they expect to increase the scope of their testing.

During the United States presidential elections, 95% of the votes will be electronically processed.  This will happen through the use of several technologies, from optical scanners used to digitize paper ballots to e-voting in some jurisdictions. It’s worth mentioning that each of the approximately 10,000 electoral jurisdictions in the country can independently choose which system to use.

In Venezuela regional elections will be held at the end of the year, when the automated system deployed since 2004 will be used again; this system is based on touchscreen voting machines able to produce voting vouchers, connected to e-ballots for data input.

Africa will hold eight elections, all of which will elect new parliaments, and one will elect the new president; the use of paper ballots is prevalent in this continent.

Finally, Asia has a country that started the process of automating their elections in 2010, the Philippines. The nation will hold general elections in May, and although it will retain manual voting, the processing of the votes and tabulation of results will be handled by technology (i.e. vote counting, transmission, tallying and results publication).

This being said, 2016 will be a year where e-voting will be ratified in developed countries but will be used in emerging nations as well, which shows that the choice to have secure and transparent elections has given an electoral advantage to several countries, even though they do not hold a privileged spot in global geopolitics.

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Democracy and electoral technology take hold in the world


electronic votingDuring 2015, some 600 million people in 100 countries went to the polls using different voting systems. This activity left clear winners, but also important losers.

For example, while the use of electoral technology in Venezuela, Estonia and some regions in Argentina was cemented, other countries saw their manual voting systems create doubts in the electorate, especially due to the inefficiency shown during vote counting.  Let us examine some of these two categories.

Estonia

On March 1, 30% of the electorate in Estonia cast their votes online. This country champions in Internet voting, and during their last parliamentary elections, ratified their position as world leaders in electoral technology.

Estonia has the most advanced Internet voting platform in the world, and has the most elections where this mode has been put into practice.

Venezuela

Venezuelans renewed their parliament on December 6; during these elections, the will of the people was kept safe by the most complete e-voting in the world, where every aspect from voter authentication to the publication of results is included. This was the fourteenth national election since 2004 that has used technology provided by the multinational Smartmatic. The results proved that regardless the political friction the country is undergoing, or how close the results may be, the nation’s auditable e-voting – a battery of 23 revisions to the system is the norm– rises up to the occasion.

The voting model is 100% automated: voter authentication through fingerprints, voting using touch screen machines and electronic ballots. The devices store, count, tally and transmit the results using encryption, and they also print a voting voucher that reflects each user’s choices.

During the 11 years that this system has been used, candidates from every political leaning have won and lost, which has meant that intense political battles have been fought without affecting the trust of the electorate.

Argentina

Argentinians had an intense electoral year, since the schedule that begun on February 8 with primary elections in some regions, ended in a previously unseen election on November 22, where the president was elected in the second round of voting. During this long process, good moves and mistakes showed the country’s need to automate their elections.

We can mention two examples: the poor performance of manual vote counting during the first round of the presidential election (the first bulletin was six hours late due to how tight the race was), as well as the scandalous voting in  Tucumán, which was annulled due to fraud and later reinstated.

Several voting modes coexist in the country; for national elections, multiple ballots are used (one for each political party), the sate of Santa Fe uses a single ballot, and Salta and Buenos Aires use a single electronic ballot (BUE) that only automates the count.  The province of Córdoba took the lead this year by trying out successfully a fully automated voting system.

Argentina faces the challenge of modernizing its system.  We will have to wait an see if the next administration will turn electoral promises into reality.

Guatemala

Guatemala elected a new president: Jimmy Morales. Although the first round saw something similar to what took place in Argentina, when a “technical draw” prevented the announcement of results for several days, this time the wide spread between the candidates and a 55% voter turnout combined to make matters easier for the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE).

Democracy is still very young in this country, so delaying the development of its electoral system is a mistake that sooner or later could result in conflict.

Haiti

Of the three countries that had presidential elections, Haiti showed the most dramatic result.  As polls closed, the president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP), Pierre Louis Opont, announced that a period of 10 days (starting on November 4) would be needed to publish preliminary vote counts.

This nation suffers from severe problems due to its technological and logistical delay, in addition to having fragile institutions.  Although the country has received technical and financial help to carry out elections (presidential and the second round of the legislative vote), their problems with the vote registry and counting make evident the urgent need to reform the electoral system as a whole.  Until today, it is not clear what will happen with the second voting round for the presidential election, given that the irregularities found during the first one have given way to all kinds of protests.