Automated voting for immigrants is the next bet


Immigrant vote tends to be controversial in many countries, not only because the laws of several nations curtail the exercise of this political right, but also because the logistic required to make voting available to foreign nationals often hinders the process.

To turn this around, Mexico, Spain and Portugal are working for solutions. In these three regions electronic voting is being considered as a way to overcome limitations that exclude those who live their lives outside their country of origin, but who are not indifferent to the land they were born in.

In the Mexican case, a nation whose unofficial data shows 10 million of its nationals residing in the US alone, the National Electoral Institute (INE) recently announced the implementation of online voting for Mexican citizens residing abroad for the 2018 presidential elections. This was first planned for 2017, but it was delayed until next year.

According to the Institute, they hope to “within the legal framework, and responsibly, timely and fully present a strengthened remote voting model for the 2017-2018 electoral process, making the best efforts to simplify procedures and requirements as to make the model swifter, more efficient and simpler, so that our fellow Mexicans who have emigrated can have political participation”.

Mexico’s statement echoes the recurring complains by voters abroad, namely that they usually face difficulties to register and validate their condition as voters, primarily due to the condition set by some nations of having legal residency, or the fear to disclose their migratory status.

In addition, there are technical and logistic challenges that hinder the exercise of democracy.  For instance, the reception of the wrong electoral materials at the diplomatic missions, and the location of polling stations, which tend to be set in consulate or embassies far away from where many citizens live.

To sort these problems out, Portugal planned to implement an e-voting model aimed specifically at this sector of the population. This nation claims that during their most recent elections, the October 2015 legislative elections, only 11.68% of the 242,852 voters residing outside its territory went to the polls.

The Lusitanic country considers it urgent to “palliate a problem that diminishes the capacity of electoral participation for our citizens abroad”, through the introduction of postal or Internet enrolment, and the use of e-voting as an alternative to in-person or mail voting.

Finally Spain, and particularly Catalans, have complained about the lack of legislation that regulates political participation for immigrants, as well as the absence of a technological mechanism to fix the difficulties of organizing elections outside the national territory.

While these three nations advance in their internal discussions, they could consider the e-voting experiences of immigrants in different countries for their debate. There are the cases of Switzerland and The Philippines, where different automation models guarantee electoral egality among their own citizens residing either at home or abroad

Swiss citizens who live abroad can also vote online. This method contemplates the voters receiving their electoral materials via post, together with a six-digit password, so they can log into a designated website and gain access to the ballot.

On the other hand, the Commission on Elections of the Philippines (Comelec) extended the e-voting capabilities it successfully applied for the first time in 2010 to seven of the countries that host Filipino citizens, namely China (Hong Kong), Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah) and Kuwait.

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E-voting: beyond traditional elections


Hoy día, más de un tercio de los votantes del mundo votan electrónicamente por sus autoridades gubernamentales. Sin embargo, este número está en franco aumento, ya que la tecnología electoral está siendo aprovechada por innumerables organizaciones civiles y políticaspara elegir autoridades, aprobar o rechazar iniciativas, dar el visto bueno o detener propuestas comunitarias, sancionar u objetar proyectos de Ley, así como otras múltiples actividades.

En varios parlamentos alrededor del mundo se están implementando soluciones tecnológicas para facilitar la toma de decisiones. En ocasiones, la tecnología desplegada cumple hasta un doble o triple propósito. Tal es el caso del Legislativo de Guanajuato, donde además de la votación electrónica -que es vista en dos pantallas en tiempo real y se efectúa desde las curules- también incluye el orden del día. En otros modelos como el uruguayo, también se cuenta la asistencia de los diputados con un software que registra votación, en aras de “hacer más transparente la gestión del Poder Legislativo y darle más herramientas a la sociedad para el control y el contacto con los diputados”.

Las asociaciones civiles, alcaldías y otras instancias de organización ciudadana también han acudido al voto electrónico para ofrecer a sus electores la oportunidad de interactuar con un sistema de votación capaz de ajustarse a las necesidades de cualquier grupo electoral, y al mismo tiempo ofrecer garantías que pasan por rapidez, seguridad, transparencia y auditabilidad.

De estos últimos ejemplos, el Instituto Electoral del Distrito Federal en México, aplicó el voto por internet para elegir los Comités Ciudadanos y Consejos de los Pueblos –instancias creadas para estimular la participación de la población en la solución de los problemas vecinales. Los residentes de la capital que usaron el sufragio remoto debieron realizar un pre-registro en la web del organismo, de manera de recibir una clave de voto por Internet indispensable para activar el sistema.

En la región, países como Argentina, Perú, República DominicanaEcuador,Bolivia yEspaña, han experimentado con elecciones automatizadas en organizaciones estudiantiles, políticas o sociales, repitiendo los resultados exitosos mostrados en comicios electrónicos constitucionales.

En estos procesos suele usarse el modelo de voto electrónico más demandado en la actualidad, el Registro Electrónico Directo (DRE, por su sigla en inglés), que consiste en el empleo de máquinas con pantalla táctil que permiten ejercer el sufragio, almacenar los votos, totalizarlos y transmitirlos a un centro de cómputo, además de imprimir un  comprobante físicos de las selecciones que hagan los votantes. Una segunda alternativa es el sufragio remoto o por internet, el cual con una plataforma segura provista para computadoras, tabletas, e incluso teléfonos, habilita el voto a un determinado grupo de ciudadanos.

Los ejemplos expuestos, son apenas algunas de las áreas donde la tecnología electoral despunta para brindar, cada vez más, software y hardware especializado para todas las etapas de un proceso de votación. Estos y otros mecanismos,  han ayudado a derribar barreras, y permitir que la versatilidad sea una aliada en la expansión del voto electrónico.

Los gremios profesionales y los partidos políticos, están entre las instancias que más usan algún tipo de tecnología para renovar directivas y nóminas. En Venezuela, las organizaciones partidistas no solo han realizado elecciones internas usando el voto electrónico 100% automatizado del que dispone el país, sino que además cumplen el proceso de renovación de su militancia con equipos de identificación biométrica, al tiempo que el proceso de reparo de firmas de seguidores –reclamos- se cumple desde la página web del organismo electoral.

European Union calls for a revitaliation of democracy through technology


The European Union (EU), as a geopolitical entity that spans most of the Old Continent, recently approved a report showcasing the potential of Information and Communication Technology (TIC) to strengthen and improve democracy.

The text – which passed in the European Parliament with 459 votes in favour, 53 against and 47 abstentions – is seen as an opportunity for the region to advance in electoral automation, since it includes e-voting and Internet voting among the technologies that can increase electoral turnout and improve the quality of elections.

In the report, the block highlights that “it is essential to recover the citizens’ trust on the European project”, and that part of the formula to reach this goal is the modernization of voting, and the use of e-governance instruments.

In this sense, digital democracy is seen as a support mechanism to strengthen the traditional system via citizen empowerment, while electronic and remote voting are seen as means to “broaden citizen inclusion and facilitate democratic participation”.

To support this proposal, the EU appeals to the voting turnout rates in the continent, which the organism alleges “have been decreasing since 1979, and descended to 42.54% during the 2014 elections”; it also warns this trend could be reversed by making voting easier through technology.

The reports cites automation in Estonia, the first European country to successfully carry out Internet voting. It claims that any other EU member state that considers introducing e-voting or some other remote voting model must follow Estonia’s guidelines, where in addition to the principles of egality, secrecy and freedom of the vote, they also guarantee the effective participation of the entire population, efficient processes in data protection; transparency and reliability of the vote count, and the existence of secure high-speed Internet connections.

Taking into account the benefits and challenges of automation and the use of IT, European deputies call for an agreement to promote e-voting and e-government to revitalize democracy.

They state that both technologies “if applied correctly and are accompanied by an adequate level of information, can contribute to the creation of a more transparent, participative democracy”.