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.

Colombia restarts electorate debate in the aftermath of the Peace Agreement

Foto: La Opinión

The peace that Colombia seems to be reaching demands not only a nationwide commitment, but also deep institutional changes that include the voting system.

In order to execute such a task, the Government has taken its first steps by installing the Special Electoral Mission, conceived to generate advice and turn the ship around on the old and questioned Colombian voting model.

President Juan Manuel Santos formalized the start of operations for the team, as part of fulfilling point number two of the peace agreement signed last November between the Government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

This section refers to the “expansion” of democracy by means of “a greater transparency of the electoral system, which requires a series of immediate measures, especially in the regions where risks and threats persist, as well as an integral revision of the electoral regime, and of the make up and functions of the electoral authorities”.

The Colombian leader stated that this Mission will have three months, expiring in April, to craft “recommendations about the necessary adjustments of the norms and institutions to guarantee greater autonomy and independence of the electoral organization, as well as modernizing and increasing the transparency of the electoral system”.

Given the discredit the current voting model (manual voting with a pre-count) has in the nation, the parts delegated to external and independent entities the design of what could be the future Colombian electoral system, as well as recovering the credibility of the electoral organisms.

Specifically, six out of the seven members of the Mission were selected by the Carter Center, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and the political science departments of the National and Los Andes universities in Colombia; the last spot was granted to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), a local NGO.

With this measure, the country breaks the silence it had kept since 2015 on the modernization of its voting system. Until that date, there had been intermittent work with an advisory commission for the implementation of technology; there was even an international convocation that was attended by 16 companies, meant to carry a pilot test for automated voting.

Despite these efforts, the Colombian initiative to reform voting has been stalled in several occasions.  We hope this new momentum the country has found ends in the enforcement of the Law, which states that voting automation is mandatory, and with a system that has risked the will of the people far too many times being left behind.

Seventy-nine elections around the world in 2017


According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a total of 79 elections will take place around the globe in 2017. Forty-six countries in all five continents will go to the polls to choose their presidents and lawmakers.

Africa and Asia lead the list with 12 nations in each continent holding election while 10 European countries will also conduct theirs.

While the rise of radicalism is stoking fears in countries such as France and Germany, concerns about electoral practices preoccupy Rwanda, Congo and some South American nations.

The first nation to hold elections in South America will be Ecuador. On February 17th, the country will choose a successor for Rafael Correa who has been president for 10 years). It will also be a litmus test for the election machines it borrowed from Korea, which the country was forced to use after its poll body declared a failure of bidding.

Peru is scheduled to hold municipal elections in some districts on March 12th.  Many are worried that the lack of commitment by the authorities would prevent the rest of the country from using the e-voting mechanism designed by the country’s National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe).  Although 19 electoral circuits have voted using machines for some years, the jurisdictions electing their mayors this year will have to settle for the same manual voting that prevented them from getting timely results during the presidential election last year.  In that occasion, the nation had to wait for a week to get the official results.

In November, Chile and Honduras also go to the polls to elect their presidencies, while the Central American nation will additionally choose their members of congress.

The November 19 Chile could also serve as a reboot of the country’s electoral system which is currently beset with voter apathy with abstention reaching around 60%. Meanwhile, Hondurans, who will go to the polls on November 30th, must speed up their discussion on electoral reforms if they wish to see any improvements in the short term.

Regional elections in Venezuela are scheduled to take place in the first semester of the year, while local elections should take place near the end of 2017. The country has been positive case study of electoral automation.  Helped by the multinational Smartmatic, Venezuelans have held over a dozen successful electronic elections. The country has been on the cutting edge of election technology, pioneering the use of voting machines that biometrically identify voters, touch screens, electronic ballots, printed voting vouchers, and automated procedures for vote tallying and results transmission.

Electoral commissions in Latin America are virtual hives of activity when it comes to the latest electoral technology. Venezuela is set to cement its leadership in e-voting , Peru and Ecuador are expected to continue pushing toward modernization, while Honduras and Chile find themselves at a crossroads — innovate or be left behind.