Venezuelan electoral credibility in freefall after Constituent Assembly


The election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela on July 30th drastically broke the electoral dynamic that had been building in the country since 2004, when the nation automated their voting.

From the way the election of a second ANC (the first one took place in 1999), to the moment in which results were presented, the election was questioned by experts and politicians both inside the country and abroad.

For some, the convocation to vote itself was illegal, since it was done directly by President Nicolás Maduro, without a referendum to consult the nation on whether they wanted a new constitution.

Furthermore, the National Electoral Council approved an electoral schedule that prevented many of the audits that had taken place in every election since 2004.  By skipping two thirds of the battery of 21 audits that are usually conducted, the credibility of the vote was seriously affected.  The Venezuelan National Observatory (OEV) kept a record of these shortcomings in a report, which states 14 audits were skipped, and 70 to a 100 actions that usually precede any election were omitted as well.

Adding to this, the problems were made worse by the decision of the Venezuelan opposition to abstain from participating, since this took away one of the vital aspects needed to guarantee the transparency of the process: having witnesses from the opposing side making sure rules and procedures are respected.

The grave concerns over the way the CNE decided to carry out the voting reached a boiling point 72 hours after the event, when Smartmatic, the company that had supplied Venezuela with voting technology for the past 14 years,   denounced that according to their estimates, “the difference between the numbers announced and those in the system [was] of at least a million voters”.

According to the multinational, while CNE President Tibisay Lucena stated 8,08 million people had voted the company data projected a different number, and they suggested audits to validate the information.

To date, the CNE has not responded to this accusation effectively, and chose to hide behind political rhetoric when the situation called for technical arguments.  Mistrust gained ground: it has been several weeks after the vote and the organism has not yet published electoral results by polling station, as it had done traditionally since 2004, thus withholding the knowledge of how all the voting circuits polled, and preventing confirmation of the results.

The CNE’s decision to hide the electoral data denies any audit of the vote; the tally cannot be corroborated by matching printed election returns with the polling station results.

So not only are there accusations of an alleged tampering of the final results offered by the National Electoral Council (CNE), but we can add that more than 30 days the vote, no official detailed results have been made public.

The delicate nature of the situation has been discussed by national and international specialists. Former Carter Center representative, Jennifer McCoy, anticipates that what happened will “strongly influence the trust of Venezuelans when it comes to participating in future elections”.

It is in the hands of the authorities to restore proper lawful procedures, and in the hands of political actors to press so that Venezuelans can recover their voting system, which took years of work and investments.

Advertisements

TSE looks to set an agenda on electoral technology in Bolivia


The last electoral process in Bolivia, a constitutional referendum on presidential reelection which took place in February 2016, showed the country’s need to transition to a voting model that will not keep the population waiting for transparent and timely results.

With this objective in mind, the recently elected president of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), Katia Uriona, announced that in his new tenure she will look to set an agenda for the organism: moving towards the adoption of technology to improve the system.

Currently the country uses two methods to get electoral results. “One is a quick transmission of results, which involves photographed election returns that are uploaded to a website managed by the Court; the other is an official vote tally in every department, using the physical election returns after they are validated” she explained.

However, none of these processes let the Court deliver an official count at the end of election day, which meant the country had to settle for exit polls.

To overcome these shortcomings, Uriona said they are analyzing the eventual implementation of automated voting for Bolivians residing abroad. They are specifically evaluating the technical feasibility and cost of e-voting, as well as the legal reformation needed for such a project, in order to shape what would be the nation´s first modern automated voting model.

Within this framework, the TSE admitted that during their last electoral process, the Organization of American States (OAS) observation team detected some irregularities and created a report with recommendations that are yet to be implemented; however, according to Uriona, the report will be discussed with aims of setting a schedule for enacting these suggestions

The text claims that “the mission witnessed that the publication of results was slow”, and it suggests “to execute the necessary legislative changes and programs so that the electoral authority is able to provide preliminary electoral results that are highly precise and will not be questioned”.

The vices shown during the last electoral processes seem to indicate there is no longer a margin for hesitation or indecisiveness in Bolivia. The TSE has said the country is prepared to assume the challenge of adopting technology. Now it is time to show there is also commitment to this goal.

Protection of voter lists must be priority


The voter list is a critical item in any election. It is needed for the enforcement of basic principles, such as only allowing valid voters to participate and preventing those who are not from taking part in the election.

As an answer to the risks involved with citizen enrolment and the protection of their information, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has announced that they will design a tool that will allow electoral bodies to improve the digital security of their registries, in turn protecting the privacy of the data they contain.

IFES is promoting this initiative after the recent leaks of the voter lists of the American states of Arizona and Illinois.  According to local press, the databases compromised by the hackers contained “Personally Identifiable Information (PII)”, that is, names addresses, biometric and gender info on the voters.

Other leaks have taken place in Turkey and Mexico.  In the former, the data of  50 million citizens, was hacked; 1.5 GB of compromised files were posted online, containing information such as the identity number, dates of birth, and addresses of these individuals. In the Latin American country, the information of every single eligible Mexican voter (93.4 million) was also posted online.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems stated this information “must be protected through robust data security measures”, and that they will conduct an “in-depth analysis of Electoral Management Bodies (EMB) digital security practices and develop a diagnostic tool to help EMBs practice better digital security”.

For now, they urge these bodies to make digital security a top priority.  The foundation considers that the sharing of voter list data “must have stronger protocols for secure data transfer and guaranteed anonymity of individuals”.

It also recommended to update data privacy laws, and for government authorities to channel more resources to understanding the relationship between open data and digital privacy, including voter information.