Elections in Chile: challenges for the electoral administration

The upcoming municipal elections on Sunday, October 23, will start a new electoral cycle in Chile that will end with the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2017.  However, these democratic exercises could be tainted by the persistence of some factors that have acted against electoral legitimacy.

For decades, voter abstention has worried Chileans. As reported by Infobae: “Chile is the country with the highest voter abstention in the world”. This fact represents a great challenge, not only for the country’s electoral authorities, but for Chilean society as a whole.  “58% of the electoral registry chose to abstain from the 2013 elections which were won by Michelle Bachelet”, states Infobae.

Recent forecasts show that only 14 million people will go to the polls, which represents a mere 40% of the electorate.

In addition to voter turnout, a second element that goes against the elections’ success is the design and the size of the ballot, a direct consequence of the Chilean manual voting system.

According to information from the Electoral Service (Servel), there are ballots with sizes comparable to a 32” TV.

The province of Maipú has the largest ballots in the country. The incumbent mayor of the commune, Christian Vittori, who is aiming for reelection, admitted that the ballot will pose big challenges to a large section of the electorate.  He said this could drive voter abstention even higher.

In addition to these difficulties, this southern nation could not fix the biggest technical issue of their electoral history: the relocation of polling centres servicing 400 thousand voters without their authorization.  The late reaction by the authorities stopped them from solving the problem, which substantially altered the voter distribution in several communes (up to 12k voters in some cases), and could impact the results beforehand.

The situation has become so complicated that some deputies asked for the drafting and approval of a norm to postpone the election.  However, what is certain is that Chile will go to the polls with grave issues still unresolved.

The stage is set so Chilean authorities begin to think about electoral modernization. It is time for Chile to revise their voting system and give technology a chance, so that citizen trust can be restored and anchored in an automated model that makes voting easier, guaranteeing that results are derived from high voter turnout.


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