During 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.