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.