E-voting has a successful debut in Ecuador

Smartmatic Ecuador Elections 2014

Ecuadorians in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used e-voting during the February 23 elections (Image CNE Ecuador)

On Sunday, February 23rd, Ecuador took a great step towards the modernization of its electoral system. The South American nation went to the polls to renew its provincial authorities (23 prefects, 221 mayors, 1,305 councilmen and 4,079 members of the parish boards).

The provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas had the opportunity to experience the benefits of e-voting in two legally binding pilots coordinated by the National Electoral Council.

The experience in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas has a particular historical significance, since results were announced barely an hour after the polls had closed.

Over 300 thousand voters in Santo Domingo used electoral technology provided by the multinational company Smartmatic, the only one which recorded and tallied votes automatically and with a 100% precision.

For Daniel Sánchez Anchundia, aged 28 and affected by cerebral palsy, the implementation of e-voting in Santo Domingo was a blessing. Thanks to the machine’s user-friendly interface, Daniel could vote by pressing the screen with his right hand, and after a minute, the machine printed a voucher that he picked up and gave his mother so she could deposit it in a ballot box.

According to statements by the National Electoral Council project manager, Alfredo Paredes, “the e-voting we used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, in addition to being safe, allowed citizens to cast their votes easily. This technology we used has been tested in elections in many other countries, which meant a successful project for us.”

Meanwhile, the system used in Azuay had some setbacks, to the point that in Ponce Enríquez canton e-voting was temporarily halted due to failures in the system and problems with the pictures of candidates belonging to the same list. There were also machine replacements, complaints about delays and an unfamiliarity of the public with the operation of the machines.

On the other hand, Wilfredo Penco, general coordinator for the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) commission of observers, showed his satisfaction with the process and stated that, with the exception of certain incidents, everything took place without significant issues.

Voting automation in the Philippines scores another hit

In the Philippines, over 50 million voters use voting machines.

On May 13th, the Philippines scored another hit in their mission to strengthen its democracy through electoral automation. Like in the 2010 General Elections, the country’s first automated elections, official results were broadcast little time after the polls closed.

The over 52 million Filipino voters registered for these elections chose 18,022 national and local representatives. Thanks to the technology used, preliminary results were available online very soon after the process ended.

A week after the elections, the Filipino Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already proclaimed 99.9% of the winners, which include: 12 senators, 229 district members of the Chamber of Representatives, 80 provincial governors, 80 provincial vice governors, 766 members of the Provincial Legislature, 138 mayors, 138 vice mayors, 1,532 city hall members, 1,496 municipal mayors, 1,496 municipal vice mayors, and 11,972 members of the Municipal Council.

If we check the Filipino elections prior to 2010, we’ll find that the proclamation of winners used to take weeks and even months. Therefore, the time it took to announce winners in these last elections is nothing short of a feat.

The 82,200 voting machines that the Comelec recently purchased from Smartmatic were used in the midterm elections. The voting started early in the morning, and voters had no problem to exercise their right. Although there is not an official figure on the number of machines that malfunctioned, the Comelec announced on May 14th that between 200 and 300 devices were damaged, which represents less than 1% of the total number of machines deployed.

The benefits of this technology were not for the exclusive use of the residents of this Asian archipelago. In order to facilitate the voting process of Filipinos living abroad, the Comelec deployed voting machines in seven Filipino embassies: Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia (Jeddah, Riyadh) and the State of Kuwait.

This recent election shows that the Philippines want to keep moving forward, and is not looking to hide or minimize their accomplishments. For these elections, the nation hosted international observers from the United States, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Thailand, Myanmar, Australia and Uganda. This way, the Filipinos made clear in the eyes of the world that electoral violence and civic mistrust are things of the past thanks to the advantages of voting technology.

The Philippines keeps moving forward and automates voting abroad

In the Philippines, over 52 million voters use voting machines.

While nations such as Mexico and Spain have spent years evaluating the implementation of e-voting for their citizens living abroad, the Philippines (which will hold their second automated election on May 13th), chose to expand electoral guarantees and to extend e-voting to Filipinos living abroad.

The step taken by this Asian country is nothing but an answer to the global need of the defending political rights of those citizens who, by virtue of living abroad, have difficulties in exercising their right to vote.

These people usually face problems in validating their status as voters; this is mainly due to the request of some nations of possessing legal residency to do so, and the subsequent fear of revealing their migratory status. However, it’s technical and logistical hurdles that impede voting the most. For instance, getting the wrong electoral material or locating polling centres far away from where many citizens live.

To solve these shortcomings, the Filipino Commission on Elections (Comelec) chose to replicate the e-voting system that was successfully used for the first time in 2010 (manual voting with automated counting and results transmission, based on the technology of the multinational provided by Smartmatic) in seven of the countries that host Filipino citizens, namely China (Hong Kong); Singapore; United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai); Saudi Arabia (Riyad and Jeddah) and Kuwait.

988,384 voters reside outside the Philippines, a number that could very well impact electoral results, and the country has understood this. Out of these, 388,593 reside in the Middle East and for a month (their voting process started on April 13th and will run until May 13th) have been able to use the same voting machines that Filipinos use on their over 7,000 islands, thus increasing voter turnout and facilitating the process.

E-voting and its versatility have made possible for the country to achieve goals in its task of ending the exclusion of thousands of citizens, who have the same voting rights as those who live in Filipino territory.