Mexico delays online voting to its citiens abroad

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.

Change in Peruvian authorities sparks interest in e-voting

Since years, Peru has had the necessary legislation to modernize voting. This is why they have devoted large sums of money to the developement and progresive implementation of electronic voting. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges and demands that come from successfully implementing an automated voting model.

This story could change in the short term.  The exit of Mariano Cucho as head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), and his replacement by Adolfo Magno Castillo Meza has increased the interest to implement electoral technology in the next general elections.

In his first contacts with the media, Castillo Meza has shown a proclivity to take the steps the nation needs to modernize its elections. “We have to reinforce the use of electronic voting, so harshly criticized during the last elections, not because it’s bad, but because it left the feeling in the population that it wasn’t effective, there were complains about the software, we will carry out an audit to see whether there are failures or not in the design”, he stated.

Peru began its path toward automation in 2011, when the voting machine designed by the Onpe was used for the first time. This device has been used in over a dozen voting events, partially and with some effectiveness, but it has shown a critical performance since 2014. This, because there was not a transparent bid for the acquisition of the technology needed for expanding its use. Later on, both election logistics and preparation were neglected.

The Peruvian automated voting mechanism  consists in a card that, when introduced into the voting machine, activates the options or candidates on a touchscreen. The voter presses their choice and the system processes and stores the choice, before printing a voting voucher at the end.

Facing a revision of the system, the need to update the technology, the decision to invest resources to guarantee a secure and transparent adoption, and the commitment for national advances in electoral matters will be the key points to be addressed. This way, Peru could set foot on the road to electoral modernization once again.

Ecuador will have to push for the electoral technology it deserves

Ecuador is getting ready for the second presidential voting round on April 2nd.  Amid the political diatribe typical of an election, the strong delay in broadcasting the results of February 19th – only made final on March 7th- cast doubts on the performance of the National Electoral Council (CNE).

The mistrust is rooted on the CNE’s decision to improvise with the vote counting technology during the elections last month, despite having tested two e-voting systems during their Sectional Elections just three years ago; one of them, used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas produced results in only 50 minutes, while Azuay had them in 90.

In the face of these successful experiences, it is inexplicable that Ecuador went for a vote scanning solution using Korean scanners that had never been tested in an election, instead of following the roadmap set in 2014, when they used electoral technology that kept the election safe and emitted exact and quick results.

The imminent execution of the second voting round forbids any substantial changes to the counting mechanism chosen by the CNE. The organism’s highest authority, Juan Pablo Pozo, has admitted mistakes but foresees no changes in the medium or long term, which leaves it up to the citizens and political parties to pressure the organism into change.

The objective of the tests electoral commissions carry out to try different technologies is precisely being able to compare and evaluate the success factors of an automated election: speed, exactness and security.  The Ecuadorian CNE could compare the elections in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Azuay in 2014 versus the past February 19th elections and all the days the vote counting took; in the former cases, it took no longer than 72 hours to reach an irreversible official trend, whereas for the latter it took days.

The Korean machines and the transmission system used in the first round of the Ecuadorean presidential elections had never been used to tally votes.  The question is, then: Why, if Ecuador – and Juan Pablo Pozo himself – knows and has tested a technology that guarantees fast and transparent results, did it go for gifted machines that could not fulfil the objective of delivering a fast and secure count? What is the cost of an election whose results are questioned?

Finding an answer to these questions should be the goal of political activists and citizens: focusing on showing that Ecuador deserves proper and secure technology like the kind it employed in 2014.