12.8 million Ecuadorians are called to vote on February 19th to elect a new President of the Republic, 137 members of the National Assembly and 5 legislators to the Andean Parliament.
For months, the country debated and questioned the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of accepting a “donation” of 2 thousand devices to be used for vote counting and the broadcast of results.
Until today, and after three simulations carried out during the preparation stage of the election, the authorities have limited themselves to communicate that the system is ready; however, they have not offered details on how the vote counting scanners performed.
Facing this lack of information, it is good to remember the critical steps Ecuador must take – steps on which its political and institutional stability will rest.
First, there is the matter of rapid counts, which are nothing but preliminary voting results. During these elections, the CNE will debut this process, and it will be based in the selection of a random sample -between 25% and 30%- of the Vote Reception Boards, i.e. the location where the certified election returns are tallied. A total of 9,617 people in the country were trained for this task. Additionally, 650 people will operate the call centre that will receive the reports resulting from this quick count, so they are made public a few hours after the polls close.
The second step that calls for attention will be the scanning of the election returns. CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo explained that as soon as the voting is over, the members of the Vote Reception Boards will begin the count and the filling of certified election returns, which will then be handed inside a sealed envelope to a collecting police officer so they are taken to the scanning area. There, the returns will be digitized and sent through an electronic system to be posted online and be made publicly accessible.
Although this mechanism may seem diligent, Pozo himself has stated that the official forecast is to present conclusive results five days after the polls close. This, given the country was satisfied with having only preliminary results on election day and using equipment that fails to improve the model, since the devices only scan and transmit manual election returns.
Next Sunday we will know if the statistical approximations of quick counts were enough or, to the contrary, if the country’s electorate and the political climate demanded expedient official results. Right then is when the lack of a speedy vote processing system such as e-voting will be made evident. The die is cast. We can only wait.