Ecuador considers improvements on its electoral practices following two elections and a recount


Ecuador held two elections, in February and April- that left more doubts than certainties about their current electoral procedures: manual voting, digitization of the vote counts, and online publishing of the tally. After the elections, the country had to undergo a recount process of 1.2 million votes, which failed to completely dispel suspicions and complaints

Although when it comes to elections, the behaviour of politicians often generates more noise than actual evidence, in Ecuador, the decisions made by the National Electoral Council (CNE) have had such a cost, that they should propel the country to change and make up for their technological gaps.

In 2015, the CNE announced that it cancelled the project that would allow two million Ecuadorians to access e-voting during the2017 elections. The CNE alleged that the initial investment of acquiring the technology was too high, and that there was mistrust about the technology among the public. The authorities pushed back the activation of an automated voting model to 2019.

This contradicts the public statements the Council had for years, which praised their experiences with e-voting in 2014: the one deployed in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, provided by Smartmatic, and the one in Azuay, provided by Magic Software Argentina; both were capable of automating the vote and safeguarding popular will.

Given this refusal to move forward, the country had to settle for some Korean scanners, which were donated to tally the votes and had never been tested. Given how close the second voting round was, they could not provide results on election day, and did so several days later.

This situation generated mistrust, and finally the CNE accepted to carry out a recount on the basis of numerical and signature inconsistencies . CNE president Juan Pablo Pozo considered this problem-free recount to be historical and an example to the world, despite it taking place in absence of the Ecuadorian opposition.

The revision of the vote ratified the results. However, this in addition to the two elections carried out this year, made it evident that the Ecuadorian system needs to be transformed and improved. The authorities must re-embark on the path they were following until 2014 to present the country with the best possible choice: technology that modernizes and guarantees the vote for millions of citizens.

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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.

Ecuador will have to push for the electoral technology it deserves


Ecuador is getting ready for the second presidential voting round on April 2nd.  Amid the political diatribe typical of an election, the strong delay in broadcasting the results of February 19th – only made final on March 7th- cast doubts on the performance of the National Electoral Council (CNE).

The mistrust is rooted on the CNE’s decision to improvise with the vote counting technology during the elections last month, despite having tested two e-voting systems during their Sectional Elections just three years ago; one of them, used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas produced results in only 50 minutes, while Azuay had them in 90.

In the face of these successful experiences, it is inexplicable that Ecuador went for a vote scanning solution using Korean scanners that had never been tested in an election, instead of following the roadmap set in 2014, when they used electoral technology that kept the election safe and emitted exact and quick results.

The imminent execution of the second voting round forbids any substantial changes to the counting mechanism chosen by the CNE. The organism’s highest authority, Juan Pablo Pozo, has admitted mistakes but foresees no changes in the medium or long term, which leaves it up to the citizens and political parties to pressure the organism into change.

The objective of the tests electoral commissions carry out to try different technologies is precisely being able to compare and evaluate the success factors of an automated election: speed, exactness and security.  The Ecuadorian CNE could compare the elections in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Azuay in 2014 versus the past February 19th elections and all the days the vote counting took; in the former cases, it took no longer than 72 hours to reach an irreversible official trend, whereas for the latter it took days.

The Korean machines and the transmission system used in the first round of the Ecuadorean presidential elections had never been used to tally votes.  The question is, then: Why, if Ecuador – and Juan Pablo Pozo himself – knows and has tested a technology that guarantees fast and transparent results, did it go for gifted machines that could not fulfil the objective of delivering a fast and secure count? What is the cost of an election whose results are questioned?

Finding an answer to these questions should be the goal of political activists and citizens: focusing on showing that Ecuador deserves proper and secure technology like the kind it employed in 2014.