2019 began with elections in Hong Kong, the first of the 93 voting processes that the world will experience throughout the new year. According to the logkept by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), more than 80 countries will go to the polls to elect presidents, congresses, or regional and local authorities.
Of the 93 electoral processes that will take place, Africa and Europe concentrate the most, since 29 nations of the first and 28 of the second will hold elections. In the Americas there will be 16 territories where elections will be held in 2019, in Asia there will be 11 and in Oceania an additional 10.
The first nation to hold elections in the region will be El Salvador. On February 3 the country will vote to elect a President and a Vice President, but according to José Simeón Cañas, rector of the Central American University (UCA), only one in three voters has some confidence and is interested in the process.
Nicaragua and Ecuador will go to the polls in March, 3 and 24, respectively. The first nation faces the challenge of running regional elections in the midst of a political crisis that has left several dead and detainees, in addition to the aggravation of maintaining a system that has only brought serious problems in various processes, such as in 2012 and 2016, when manual elections yielded unreliable results.
At the same time Ecuador, which will hold local elections, hopes to offer quick (preliminary) results. For this, it has planned to repeat the manual voting model, digitization of precinct counts and online broadcasting of results, that has been used for several years. However, we must remember that instead of advancing a transparent process of technology acquisition, since 2018 this nation uses Korean loaned equipment for the digitization and transmission of precinct counts.
May 5 will see Panama go out to vote in General Elections. This event will show how the lack of commitment from the authorities prevents the e-voting model tested in 2014, designed by the Electoral Tribunal (ET), from being adopted. It reproduces characteristics of systems already tested in other countries, so the experiment was successful, but to date the same manual voting method that receives ample criticism and promotes distrust will be maintained.
Mexico will vote again after last year’s Presidential Elections. On June 2 there will be regional and local elections in five states. The authorities have the challenge of overcoming the failures in the tallying and publication of results processes that occurred in 2018. In that sense, efforts should be directed to achieve a single counting mechanism in the medium term, since it currently uses three different methods, and only the one delivered a week after the election is considered official.
The reasons for moving forward in adopting a single, safe and transparent model, is that in the past presidential election the mechanisms that deliver unofficial results data was flawed. In the case of rapid counting, uncertainty reigned for days for the other 18,000 posts in dispute, while the Preliminary Electoral Results Program (Prep), confronted serious problems, generating violence and distrust in various regions.
Guatemala he will also vote in June for all the posts: President, Vice President, 158 deputies to Congress, 20 to the Central American Parliament and 340 municipal corporations. This country will have to reverse the negative results of its most recent elections in 2015, when a “technical tie“, between the second and third presidential candidates prevented the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) from clearing up doubts about who would appear as contenders in the ballot. Violence marred the democratic day on that occasion.
Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Haiti will complete the 2019 electoral program in October.
In Nueva Granada, Colombia. will hold elections on October 27 to elect the Governors of the 32 departments, Deputies of the Departmental Assemblies, Mayors of 1099 municipalities, Municipal Councilors and Local Administrative Board Councilors of the national territory.
On this occasion, Colombians will still not employ electronic voting either. Although the Legislation is already in place, there has been no motivation to implement it. In this way, voters will return to the polls with the uncertainty of whether the null votes, identity theft, manual counting and other shortcomings of ancient voting methods will impair the elections. Bolivia and Haiti will have to make do under the same circumstances.
In Argentina, the presidential, regional and legislative elections will occupy a good part of the year. The calendar is bulky, but lack of definition, political conflict and lack of interest have delayed the implementation of an automated system for the Federal Elections. This country requires a revision of its voting model, and also a sustained, serious work on the part of its authorities to overcome the shortcomings that often tarnish the voting events.
In view of this recount, it is guaranteed that 2019 will be a year full of electoral challenges for many nations. However, elections in Latin America represent a great opportunity for technology, because in the near future several countries will have to decide between advancing or remaining prostrate to technical-electoral obsolescence.