Argentina and Costa Rica delay electoral automation


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Brazil and Venezuela are world leaders in election automation, with years of successful technology-powered polls between them. On the other, there are countries that, for one reason or another, have been stuck in manual polls despite all the grief that the antiquated system is associated with.

Such is the case for Argentina and Costa Rica. The former advanced on the objective of installing an automated system on a national scale in 2016, but despite their efforts did not manage to make this change. The latter focused on electoral technology and did not finalize any measure.

Argentina spent months debating an electoral reform whose central axis was the progressive adoption of a Single Electronic Ballot (BUE in Spanish). Yet the initiative was abruptly stopped in the senate.

In a scathing editorial, the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion revealed the disconnect between the Argentinian public’s clamor to overhaul the electoral system and the politicians’ pussyfooting, which hints that the latter stand to lose a lot when automation eventually eliminates vote manipulation.

More alarmingly, a scheme proposed by the government for the adoption of BUE’s (the model adopted in Salta) has had a less than stellar performance and had only raised doubts about its capacity so safeguard the voters’ will.

On the other hand, lack of funding has stalled the implementation of e-voting in Costa Rica, where election reforms seem to be languishing in the cellar.   The Electoral Registry Directorate in fact stated that “there is no economic feasibility for this project, at least in the short and medium term”, and that resources should be oriented to other priority areas.

Observers are quick to note that the Costa Rican government should look past the high initial investment needed to implement e-voting and see the larger savings that will be realized in the long term.

Admittedly, the cost of acquiring e-voting solutions seems prohibitive at the outset. After all, software, hardware, training, voter education do cost a lot of money.  Yet expenses drop for subsequent elections since the only maintenance and small upgrades are needed.

When Argentina and Costa Rica resume this debate in 2017, both countries would do well to realize that how important it is for democracies to start modernizing their elections, and how critical it is to select the most secure and efficient automated voting model for their unique needs.

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