Mexico advances in two electoral technology processes

Mexico decide to postpone until 2018 what would have been its first binding federal e-voting experience: online voting for nationals abroad. Although this cancellation generated critics among Mexicans abroad, national and state authorities have not stopped the development of the system and they are getting ready to present technology-based improvements.

Speaking of these matters, the National Electoral Institute (INE) announced that the electronic enrolment of Mexicans abroad will be modernized shortly.

According to the latest reports by the INE, out of the millions of Mexicans residing abroad (10 million estimated in the US alone), barely 300 thousand have requested their voter ID; therefore the INE is aiming to make enrolment easier through technology, to the point where 500 thousand Mexicans register to vote.

The Institute believes that technology will encourage participation, as it has in other sectors.  For instance, the United Kingdom proved in 2015 that voters preferred automated voter registration instead of using the postal service.

The Mexican Electoral Registry project only needs the approval of the General Council to be set in motion. This way, Mexicans residing abroad will be able to choose between enrolment via the technological platform or the postal service. The requirements by the INE to enrol are: a birth certificate, proof of address and a photograph.

Also in Mexico, the burough of Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City is planning an automated voted event for June 25th, where it will be decided whether borough president Ricardo Monreal will stay in his position or be asked to leave.

The Electoral Institute (IEDF) considers the use of electronic voting will reduce costs to the minimum and improve turnout. IEDF Chairman Mario Velázquez explained that the voting system is already set.

It is an Internet voting model which was already used in the participative budget process of 2017. The organism explains that users must request a password in advance to log into the voting platform, or go to designated polling stations with voting machines.

This way, while the financial viability of e-voting for Mexicans abroad is being considered, Mexico continues working in the automation of some phases of the voting process (e.g. voter registration), also allowing for the use of technology in different regions. Each one of these actions is important for the full automation of their electoral system.

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.

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.