TSE looks to set an agenda on electoral technology in Bolivia

The last electoral process in Bolivia, a constitutional referendum on presidential reelection which took place in February 2016, showed the country’s need to transition to a voting model that will not keep the population waiting for transparent and timely results.

With this objective in mind, the recently elected president of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), Katia Uriona, announced that in his new tenure she will look to set an agenda for the organism: moving towards the adoption of technology to improve the system.

Currently the country uses two methods to get electoral results. “One is a quick transmission of results, which involves photographed election returns that are uploaded to a website managed by the Court; the other is an official vote tally in every department, using the physical election returns after they are validated” she explained.

However, none of these processes let the Court deliver an official count at the end of election day, which meant the country had to settle for exit polls.

To overcome these shortcomings, Uriona said they are analyzing the eventual implementation of automated voting for Bolivians residing abroad. They are specifically evaluating the technical feasibility and cost of e-voting, as well as the legal reformation needed for such a project, in order to shape what would be the nation´s first modern automated voting model.

Within this framework, the TSE admitted that during their last electoral process, the Organization of American States (OAS) observation team detected some irregularities and created a report with recommendations that are yet to be implemented; however, according to Uriona, the report will be discussed with aims of setting a schedule for enacting these suggestions

The text claims that “the mission witnessed that the publication of results was slow”, and it suggests “to execute the necessary legislative changes and programs so that the electoral authority is able to provide preliminary electoral results that are highly precise and will not be questioned”.

The vices shown during the last electoral processes seem to indicate there is no longer a margin for hesitation or indecisiveness in Bolivia. The TSE has said the country is prepared to assume the challenge of adopting technology. Now it is time to show there is also commitment to this goal.

27 elections to take place before the year’s end, four in Latin America

Despite September being just around the corner, the electoral calendar is still quite full, including 27 elections in four continents.  Four Latin American countries will go to the polls before the end of 2017.

This list was compiled by the Election Observers Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, who inform that in the hectic electoral schedule for the rest of 2017 there will be 10 presidential and seven legislative elections, while the rest will be primaries and municipal elections.

Some of the events will take place simultaneously in several countries in the same month; four of these countries are Latin American.  Argentina will hold elections in August and October; Chile and Honduras will have theirs in November, and Venezuela will have them in July and December. Additionally, the American states of Virgina and New Jersey will also vote.

Electoral preparations already began in Argentina, where, in the middle of a scandal regarding the award of a contract for the temporary vote count service, marred by suspicions of traffic of influences and a fixed bid,  their primary elections (Simultaneous and Mandatory Primaries, PASO) were moved up to August 13th. Argentina will hold parliamentary elections in October.

Meanwhile, Venezuela will employ electronic voting once more. After calling for elections for the National Constitutional Assembly for July 30th, electoral authorities have announced regional elections for October.

November will see the Chilean presidential elections (on the 19th) and Honduras (set for the 26th).  As for the latter, there is a scandal unveiled by theNational Anti-Corruption Council (CNA), which questioned Mapa Soluciones and other companies involved in the Preliminary Results Transmission System (Trep) and the Integrated Count and Result Broadcast System (Siede) These companies are under investigation due to the irregularities in the award of several contracts, an accusation that also reaches the current board of the Honduran Supreme Electoral Court (TSE).

In the case of Chile, the election set for November 19th could be used as a starting point for the renewal of their voting system. The country experiences strong voter apathy at the moment. Abstention hovers around 60%, which has led experts to agree that the nation must strive to modernize its voting mechanisms.

As for the United States, on November 7th two States will test once more the diverse e-voting models at their disposal. The voting in Virginia and New Jersey could show the need for software and hardware renewal (some parts of the country are lagging in updating), but it could also show the advantages in security, ease and speed that come with technology.

In the rest of the world, India began their road to presidential elections on July 25th.  Presidential elections will also be held in Rwanda (August 4th), Kenya (August 8th), Singapore (sometime in September), New Zealand (September 23rd), Liberia (October 10th), Kyrgyzstan (November 19th) and Slovenia (sometime in December).

Each and every one of these elections will be a great chance for electoral technology to shine. While Venezuela and the United States will confirm their leading status in e-voting technology, other nations will need to keep pushing for modernization, and for a more transparent selection procedure for the companies they choose to this end.

E-voting and the road to the White House

Elections in the US capture the world’s attention and analysis.  Voter participation in the world’s greatest superpower has an influence watched from many angles, including election logistics, since every American election is a showcase of technologies that exhibits the variety of e-voting models available in the market.

The world will be able to see the automated voting methods Americans employ during the November 8th presidential election, the 58th in the country’s history. The Verified Voting Foundation  has listed the four technologies the country has been using recently, expected to make another appearance in this election.

According to their study, the models go from touch screen machines, to devices that issue paper trails, to scanners limited to automated tallying only.

The multiplicity of these technologies is a result of each county in the US having autonomy to choose and apply the model best suited to its needs. It is expected that over 3 thousand technology solutions will be put to use in November, based on the following models:

1.-Optical scan voting systems. This mechanism is used in some places in the US for automating the vote count. A scanner reads and recognizes the ballot, which is fed to the machine by hand, records the votes cast and processes them automatically.  Most voters mark their choices by filling ovals or marking arrows on the ballot.  The device stores the ballot counts in its memory.

2.- Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE). This kind of technology is the most used worldwide (countries such as Belgium, Brazil, India and Venezuela employ it), and its application has increased in the US. Votes are marked directly on the machine through a touchscreen or a tactile pad. According to the summary from Verified Voting, the first generation of DRE’s used a button interface for the selection, while latter models employ touchscreens.  There are variations of this model that can print a voting-verified paper trail.  Besides precinct counts, all the machines also transmit their own individual votes bundled together when the polls close.

3) Devices with a marking system. Machines of this kind have an interface that makes voting easier for those with disabilities.  They offer autonomy to voters with physical handicaps (mobility-related problems or absence of limbs) and those with sensory limitations (visual and hearing impairments).  For instance, for visual impairments, the device may have Braille markings, or headphones so the voter can hear the contents of the ballot.  There are also sip/puff devices that let the user navigate the ballot, intended for users with impaired mobility so they can vote unassisted.

4) Punched cards. According to Verified Voting, very few counties still use the ancient method of punched cards, having voters punch holes in the ballots with a mechanical device.  The ballots are then inserted in the ballot box to be either counted manually or with a tallying machine.

After reviewing the usual voting technologies in the US, the 185 million voters in the country will still employ the most common voting models in the world, but it is clear that electronic voting will prevail.