Mexico´s National Electoral Institute (INE) recently announced its decision to delay the implementation of an online voting alternative for Mexican nationals residing abroad, for this year’s state elections and the 2018 presidential vote.
The decision stems from a lack of budget to study, acquire and install an e-voting system, but also from a “lack of technical certainty” about the remote voting model the institute sought to implement.
According to the latest INE registries, out of the millions of Mexicans residing abroad (10 million estimated in the US alone), only 200k have requested their voter ID’s; the voting organism states it lacks both the time and the resources to meet the deadlines to guarantee an optimal use of the technology, which technicians consider key to facilitate enrolment and, therefore, turnout.
The news was not well received by activists abroad. Carlos Arango, representative of the Coalition for the Full Political Rights of Mexicans Abroad, considered the cancellation of the project to be “another taunt, another insult to Mexicans abroad”. For him, it is political, and not technical, variables that are hindering progress: “They fear our impact. They fear we might change the course of the election”, he stated.
On the other hand, one of the main political parties in the election, PRD, rejected the delay of automation, stating that the lack of political will is going to force Mexicans abroad to wait at least six more years to vote in presidential elections.
These criticisms were answered by the INE, which claimed the delay of the plan “does not mean e-voting from abroad is cancelled in the future, since there is an institutional commitment to advance the project”. The organism even promised to “design the alternatives and development routes for the system”.
Given the public and political complains, and the disposition of the authorities, activists and political parties must see this delay as a chance to get ready for the time when Mexico reopens the discussion on voting automation.
When that time comes, the debate can deepen, so it not only involves the partial use of electoral technology (i.e. limited to citizens abroad), but that it can also make inroads into choosing the safest and more effective e-voting model for the Republic as a whole.