The World will live through 93 elections this year 2019

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.


Peaceful, transparent and credible elections: A key event for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Angolan UNITA presidential candidate Isaias Samakuva campaignImagen: ISS Today

In recent months, political tensions and insecurity have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), due to demonstrations against the continuousness of Joseph Kabila in power. And although the political attention, both national and international, continues to focus on confidence-building measures and on the advances toward the electoral process on December 23, credibility in the authorities and in the electoral process continues to deteriorate.

Note: This blog always is in favor of the implementation of technology aimed at improving elections, but such a crucial endeavor must follow certain rules and be done correctly from the start. Experience teaches us that when such a project starts from a slanted or rigged selection or tender, results are never satisfactory.

Issues such as having electoral registration data manipulated, excuses of alleged difficulties in registering the Congolese living abroad, and the hiring –with no previous bidding-  of voting machines from South Korean Miru System Ltd, a company without any significant and verifiable experience, are some of the concerns that the main opposition leaders have recently denounced, casting doubts over carrying out a transparent electoral process, which has been twice postponed since 2016, and was again postponed in 2017.

In February Nikki Haley, the US ambassador before the United Nations, declared: “Introducing an unfamiliar technology for the first time during a crucial election is an enormous risk”, referring to the introduction of voting machines from the South Korean company Miru, which have not been used in previous elections in other countries. In addition, the company is under investigation by its own country’s authorities for alleged cases of bribery through the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB). According to several notes in countries where A-WEB operates, this association disguises the sale of voting machines provided by Miru under supposed training and consulting services to electoral commissions.

In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Election Commission of South Korea (NEC) itself expressed concern over the use of Miru’s voting machines during the December presidential elections. In a statement to the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante , CENI), NEC voiced serious concerns about the introduction (of these machines), stating that the unstable political situation and a vulnerable environment, which includes a high illiteracy rate, a weak electrical infrastructure, and deplorable road conditions, can lead to machine malfunctions.

As a result, the political opposition of the Democratic Republic of Congo has requested South Korea and the USA the suspension of the contract that links the Independent National Electoral Commission of the DRC with Miru System, and the blocking of its bank accounts.

The DRC is one of the most volatile and complex regions of Africa, however, achieving peace and balance could contribute to the stability and development of the African continent, says Said Djinniten, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the region. of Central Africa. The government representatives of countries such as the USA, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Korea have also expressed their concerns in recognizing that carrying out peaceful, transparent and credible elections in the DRC represents a key point in the direction of the African continent.

That is why CENI, the DRC electoral commission, must work adroitly to ensure that both voting and counting are carried out smoothly. The implementation of technology could (and should) among other things improve voter registration, allow citizens to vote from abroad, facilitate the voting process, swiftly provide reliable preliminary results, and allow multiple audits that furnish tranquility and confidence to citizens. Let’s hope that the accusations and the fears about Miru are more about the mistakes for their hiring (in several countries already) and not about the performance of their technology.


Preliminary count in El Salvador calms the waters


Several weeks have passed since El Salvador headed to the polls to elect 168 congress seats and 262 municipal councils and no official results have been announced. Yet the overall political climate remains calmed thanks in part to the preliminary results announced by the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) on March 5, the day after the elections.

El Salvador has an extremely complex manual voting system. A 2015 reform allowed voters to assign 0.5 to different candidates making the tallying process much more cumbersome. Given this important change, TSE decided to utilize technology to help poll center operators generate timely preliminary results.

For this preliminary count, TSE tested the Korean scanners and software from MIRU, which were used to digitize and transmit the voting records, and the software and services of the multinational Smartmatic to process said records and publish the results in real-time. The use of technology proved successful as it has helped generate peace of mind among Salvadorians (and their political parties) while the TSE finalizes the official count.

Election Day saw no major incidents. The web publication system allowed the TSE to announce voting trends per political party (number of deputies) the same night of the election. These trends were first shown online at 8:00 pm. However, during the preliminary count there was a failure that affected the votes for legislators in two of the 15 departments – San Salvador and La Libertad. Smartmatic’s Director for Central America, Francisco Campos, explained that “a tiny piece of software failed to capture the candidates’ names, and placed them at random”. Thanks to technology and the real-time publication of results, the inconsistency was made evident and quickly solved. Political parties and citizens were able to audit results by contrasting tallying reports with the website.

Despite the fact that the failure corrected on time, and that political parties had all the evidence on their hands to corroborate the accuracy of the results published online, some political parties reacted against the modernization of future elections. The error was acknowledged and corrected thanks to technology; nonetheless, these parties have begun a campaign to pedal back the progress made by El Salvador towards improving their voting system.

Leandro Querido, an election expert who leads the NGO analyzed what transpired on social media, pointing that “opposing the incorporation of technology in electoral processes is reactionary, but above all, ludicrous. What happened in El Salvador was an error in the manual entries to the provisional results, which was detected by the technology itself and quickly solved thanks to it”.

El Salvador needs to make the best of what happened, learn from the experience and continue modernizing its voting system by relying on technology.