The Dominican Republic nears another electoral blunder


Dominican Republic

Successfully implementing electronic voting is not an easy task. The countries that have efficiently achieved it have done so after extensive planning, involving numerous intermediate steps and significant expert technical advice. Unfortunately, there are other countries that despite skipping steps, stages and key requirements imposed by the process, still expect to bring such an endeavor to fruition. One such country is the Dominican Republic.

By October 6, the date of the mandatory primaries prior to the 2020 General Elections, this Caribbean nation will use an automated election model unrelated to the specialized technology currently used in the world, and that in countries with ample experience, such as Brazil, Estonia, or some counties in the United States, delivers transparent and solid, secure results.

The information offered by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) proper, shows that the nation has decided to advance in automation without taking the necessary technical, logistical and security provisions, so it could again err in the use of electoral technology.

As may be recalled, in the 2016 General Elections, failures occurred that questioned the credibility of the results, inflicted a patrimonial damage and affected democratic institutions.

However, it is now known that the Dominican Republic will debut in electronic voting using software and hardware that was not designed to automate elections. For example, while the computer program was developed by the JCE without performing tests that guarantee its operation, the equipment acquired through an express tender —conveniently described as urgent— are not fit for specialized use in voting. According to what has been leaked in the local press, they seem to be commercial use machines not meeting the proper specifications for an election.

Finding the most appropriate automated model for a country can be arduous. Nonetheless Democracy is worth it. The criteria that prevails must lead to the acquisition of a system that guarantees the security, secrecy and transparency of the vote. Also, the advantages of electronic voting must be provided for: safety, swiftness and auditability.

To comply with this requirement, it is vital to advance a tender in accordance with the highest standards. Namely, it pays to consider an international summons to elections technology providers, have them prove their experience in the field and their ability to offer a flexible electronic voting model adjusted to the legal, technical, financial and even idiosyncratic needs of the nation.

To this, it must be added that the equipment to be purchased must be designed exclusively for voting and tallying purposes.

Apparently, the Dominican Republic, instead of focusing its efforts and resources toward providing its electorate with the best possible electronic voting, has opted for a technology that places it just around the corner of a new electoral mishap.

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Argentina integrates new technology into its 2019 electoral cycle


In Argentina the vote is mainly manual (Photo: http://www.infobae.com)

In Argentina the vote is mainly manual (Photo: http://www.infobae.com)

The 2019 Argentine elections –the Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory Primaries (PASO, for its initials in Spanish) scheduled for August 11, the general elections of October 27 and the eventual ballot of November 22– herald developments that look crucial for the future of this country’s electoral system, as vital technology will be newly deployed in processes as the tallying and transmission of results.

After two public tenders, last December the Correo Argentino awarded transnational Smartmatic the development of software for the capture and transmission of ‘telegrams’ (electoral data); and in April, it was announced that the same company would be in charge of the Provisional (non-binding) Tally, after having complied with all the technical requirements and having submitted the best and most economic proposal.

With the hiring of Smartmatic, the expense the country will have to incur to learn the results on the same night of the election was sharply reduced, as Indra –the company which commanded the elections for 22 years– had collected U.S. $33 million in 2015, while now the English firm won the contract for quoting $16.89 million –the state got savings of around 50% compared to 2015.

Beyond the cost, which is not a minor issue, in this case the choice of a provider for the Provisional Tally anticipates important elements when adopting electoral technology. For example, the Ministry of Modernization and Correo Argentino anticipate that there will be three or four technical tests and pilot runs to verify and guarantee the functionality of the system.

In this way, Argentina prepares to deliver the use of data transmission software from schools to its electorate, which will not only mean speeding up the sending of ‘telegrams’, but also hopes to reduce human error. The software will be able to read barcodes in the count reports, polling station IDs, the number of pages and other data, reducing manual input of information.

At the same time, it will gain a vote counting system which will enable loading the results from polling stations, the processing, auditing, and totalization; and the real time dissemination of data during election night.

These electoral technological developments in Argentina are good news. Modernization in this area is synonymous of security and transparency in the exercise of voting, and this is what a country will obtain where manual voting too often used to damage public confidence, and therefore Democracy as well.