Argentina’s thorny path to electoral automation

Argentina is getting ready to discuss an electoral reform whose impact will be determining for the country’s democracy.  Both the National Government and provincial ones are proposing deep revisions to their voting systems, which makes it imperative to have a thorough look at the choices the authorities are evaluating in order provide their citizens with clean, transparent and secure elections.

Reviews on both printed and electronic media show strong divergences in the nature of the reforms proposed. Although there is a consensus on the need to automate elections, there are different opinions about which technology is the most appropriate for the nation.

The proposal of the executive, to be discussed in parliament, seems to lean toward an automated counting system similar to the one in Salta province; that is, a mixed system of printed ballots and vote scanning.  Even though this system has had moderately successful results in the region, it has also created doubts on its capacity to safeguard the voters’ will.  It was recently implemented in Buenos Aires and was strongly criticized by technology experts from Ekoparty.

At the same time, the regions of Tierra del Fuego and Santa Fe put a couple options for reform on the table.  The first one is concerned with fixing strict norms for the implementation of e-voting, while the second one (still to be debated) deals with the choice between two automated voting models and a mixed system that uses paper ballots and mechanized vote counting.

These examples paint a clear picture of the thorny path Argentina is traversing. In addition to doubts about the single electronic ballots (BUE) and the reform proposed by the national Government, other questions have been raised, such as those by federal electoral judge María Romilda Servini, who addressed issues of mistrust on the voter registry.

With the discussion raging in full force, the southern nation must guarantee that the debate is broad and transparent.  This electoral reform must be the chance to safeguard the vote of Argentinians, both technically and logistically, by means of the technology chosen. Their choices should also be protected from those who still aim at tampering with the votes, the results, or the processes themselves.

Argentina needs to make the right choice. The best e-voting practices are available for all to see, and can be regarded as guidelines for the country, both for a gradual application of the technology and for selecting the model that bests suits them. The decision made will be crucial for democracy.

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