Ecuador goes to the polls with more doubts than certainty

Foto: Últimas Noticias

On February 19th, Ecuador will be holding general elections. In preparation for this event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) carried out their third simulation test of the electoral infrastructure and declared themselves ready.

According to the authorities, during the last test before the elections – February 5th – the 1,799 locations that will be working during election day were activated, and their operational readiness was proved.

CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo stated the system is “completely ready” to fulfil the process, where a new President, 137 members of the National Assembly, and 5 legislators for the Andean Parliament will be elected.

“All systems have passed the certification norms the Electoral Council has today; therefore, we guarantee the country this will be a flawless process”, stated Pozo, without mentioning the results of the test.  Regrettably, there is little know about the the performance of the quick count – previously an exit poll, and now in the hands of the CNE. There were also no comments on the performance of the donated scanners that will be used to put the certified electoral returns online.

Political parties have voiced concerns about the voter roll and as the quick count process; the latter aims to deliver preliminary results three hours after the polls close.

Some political spokespeople have also voiced concerns over the selection of the Vote Reception Boards, which will be in charge of issuing non-official results, given the fact they were not chosen in accordance to the nation’s voting distribution and the risk which that entails.

Other political parties have questioned the lack of audits on the technology, the voter rolls, and the system itself.  Gilmar Gutiérrez, leader of Partido Sociedad Patriótica (PSP), denied that any party has attended the alleged revisions carried out by the CNE.

Despite the concerns, the stage is set in Ecuador. 12.8 million voters are called to the polls. Both the non-official results and the use of equipment to scan the election returns and transmit them are generating more suspicions than certainties, but we will have to wait to evaluate this process on which the nation’s political stability depends.

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.

Electoral automation in Peru looking for new ways ahead

La Onpe de Perú diseñó una máquina de votación que ha sido probada en varias ocasiones.Last December, the Peruvian National Council of the Magistracy (CNM) presented the surprising decision to announce that the head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), Mariano Cucho, would not be ratified in his position.

According to the CNM arguments, Cucho’s non-fulfilment of some of the objectives planned for his three year tenure (2013-2016) triggered his exit. The delay in the application of e-voting was the item that carried the most weight in the CNM’s evaluation which ruled Cucho should be dismissed.

In the document stating his dismissal, the Council states that “electronic voting was one of (Cucho’s) main proposals, it was a part of his postulation report and a favourable indication for his appointment (…) However, the performance of our evaluation’s subject has only generated mistrust, due to results that have been less than satisfactory”.

Specifically, the document details how during Cucho’s term the number of districts with e-voting went down from 30 to 19, that the financial goals regarding automation were not met, and in the end there were no advances toward the implementation of electoral technology.

Peru has the legislation in place to modernize voting, and has an electronic voting model which has been undergoing testing for years. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges that come from implementing an automated voting model.

For instance, instead of moving forward with voting machines and strengthening their security characteristics,  during the first round of voting – April 10th 2016 – the number of automated voting circuits had to be reduced.  Still, the results for these elections and for those in June (second round) were negative.

The reasons for the misuse of e-voting are rooted in the fact that the ONPE, which at first intended to follow best the practices in the region to design their e-voting system, has neglected its improvement.  Meanwhile, the organism has also neglected the election logistics and preparation, a fact that made evident during last year’s voting through the scant or null information that both voters and poll workers had.

The CNM’s decision opens a new possibility for automation in Peru. Currently, there are 13 people vying to become the head of the Onpe, and there are hopes that by late February there will be an appointment.  The delay in applying electoral technology has been costly for Chucho, but it could be the incentive that manages to do away with the indecisiveness regarding voting automation.