Dominican Republic primary elections plagued with fraud and automated system flaws

The new voting system developed by the Central Electoral Board (JCE, for Junta Central Electoral) of the Dominican Republic had a premiere full of flaws and complaints about irregularities. After this blunder, the great expectations the JCE had raised vanished, and today what is looming is an electoral crisis.

The platform designed by the electoral authorities, premiered at the official primaries of October 6, brought forth more doubts than certainties. Issues range from late voting, plus lack of information for using the technology, up to fraud allegations by presidential candidate Leonel Fernández, of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

At a press conference, Leonel Fernández warned that there were irregularities with the automated system software’ source code, and that the equipment used during the primaries was supposed to be audited in January but such activity was never carried out.

“What our technicians are witnessing is that an algorithm was installed in the software source code that tampered with the results, that is why in order to anticipate that situation we had repeatedly insisted that the matching of physical votes vs. electronic votes should have been carried out, as it’s done everywhere in the world”, he stated.

In view of this situation, the mission of electoral observers of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties for Latin America and the Caribbean formally requested the Central Electoral Board to increase the manual counting of votes up to 50%.

In addition, they recommended performing this manual audit in view of the fact that a brand-new automated system was used. They considered that it was necessary to raise the percentage of audited votes and to halt the dissemination of preliminary results until there was a significant percentage of the voting centers already counted.

Listín Diario reported that there were inconsistencies in the data supplied by the Central Electoral Board  at the municipal voting level in municipal districts, between the total numbers of people registered in electoral demarcations and the valid votes registered in the voting system.

Apart from the denunciations by presidential candidate Leonel Fernández, some voters warned about flaws and poor elector education for these primaries.

Long lines of voters were observed in several polling stations in the country, which according to complaints collected by the media, were a result of the flaws in the automated system, and in some cases resulted because the JCE sent too few devices to voting centers.

On the other hand, elderly adults had to ask the electoral operators for assistance in order to vote, because they “did not know what automated voting consists of ”, so they asked the JCE to make more information available about electronic voting for the 2020 elections.

For now, while the Central Electoral Board declared that the system had worked well “during a day of pride for the country”, Candidate Leonel Fernandez said he will request the annulment of the elections and that he will call for peaceful demonstrations in the country to denounce the fraud.

The electoral future of the Dominican Republic looks gloomy, without greater transparency or actions aimed at correcting the flaws that appear when an automated voting model is implemented with poor or no planning, and disregarding the successful models of other countries.