Electronic voting in Peru

As the second voting round of the Peruvian presidential nears (June 5th), the political debate has turned into a fierce struggle between Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) of Peruanos Por el Kambio, and Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza Popular.  Parallel to this confrontation, the country’s public opinion is also debating the lacklustre performance of the e-voting model that it had been partially using, and which fell short of expectations during the initial voting of April 10th.

It is worth mentioning that the Peruvian e-voting system has been used in some 15 pilots that included between 5 and 19 metropolitan districts, and so far results are not satisfactory.

Given the importance of a presidential election, one should study the electoral technology designed by the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) several years ago, comparing it to successful automated models around the globe.

The Peruvian e-voting system is based on a ballot that needs to be inserted in the voting machine to activate options (candidates) on a touchscreen. The voter presses his/her choices which the machine processes and stores, and then prints a voting voucher at the end.

This voter experience is similar to the model used in Belgium since 2012.

In Peru, like in some jurisdictions of the United States, voters select their candidates by means of a touch screen.  Both Brazil and India use machines without touch sensitive screens, and votes are entered by means of keypads.

The Peruvian voting machine issues a printed voting voucher.  This resembles the Venezuelan experience, and is different from e-voting in Brazil and India, where no vouchers are printed for the electorate.

Once the polls close, it is time to count selections and transmit results for each voting machine.  The ONPE sees tallying and transmission as separate processes: a first step where “the results station consolidates partial information and arrives at a final result”, and a second step that includes the “transmission station, which digitizes statements of the vote, and transmits results and digitized statements to the central site”.

On the other hand, both Brazil and Venezuela, countries which have automated their elections for over a decade, have voting  machines that are capable of storing, counting, tallying and transmitting results as an integral process that takes place right after the polls close.

E-voting positioned in electoral debate in Argentina


Voting in Argentina is primarily manual (Photo:http://www.infobae.com)

On November 22, Argentina experienced something never seen before: a presidential runoff (the first time this could have happened, it didn’t because Carlos Menem quit his candidacy). However, this was not the only distinctive element of this election. This highlight was fueled by other novelties like the second presidential debate in the democratic history of the country, and the fact that e-voting has been positioned as an issue worth discussing during the campaign.

In fact, due to the poor performance of the manual tallying during the first electoral round—the bulletin was six hours late due to the narrow difference in results—, and the scandalous election in Tucumán, which was declared void due to fraud and then declared valid, automation gained force as an electoral issue. This topic was first addressed by the two candidates to the presidency, and also by the third political force led by Sergio Massa.

The candidate from Cambiemos, Mauricio Macri, stated that he will promote an electoral reform that takes into account the “single ballot, e-voting, or the best technology available in 2017,” while the officialist candidate Daniel Scioli fixed his position in the last weeks of the presidential race. This happened during the election of the Pinamar intendent, when Scioli acknowledged that automated voting “improves transparency in the electoral act.”

On the other hand, “Massism” aims at a transformation of legal administration in several regions throughout the country, and in such reform e-voting plays a prominent role. For example, in Buenos Aires, the movement champions the modification of the voting system to give way to electoral technology. Even the Commission for Political Reform expects to debate the automation project before the end of 2015.

In Argentina, several electoral models coexist, as each province is free to choose and manage its own electoral system. Therefore, multiple ballots (one ballot per political force) are used in the national elections (and most provincial elections), but at the same time, a single ballot is used in Santa Fe.

In Salta and Buenos Aires, the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE) has been implemented. This automates tallying only. Some municipalities in Córdoba tested successfully this year a voting system that automates all of the essential phases of an election.

In light of this diversity, the fact that e-voting is under the spotlight of electoral debate is proof of the importance granted by political forces to the democratic obligation of defending the people’s intent. Until now, Argentina has suffered the many shortcomings and flaws of manual voting, but new leaders are now poised to take on the challenge of modernizing the electoral system of this country.

Mexico will test out locally designed e-voting system

mexicoMexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) has set the goal of automating the country’s electoral system by 2018. Three years away from the deadline, the organization is still facing various obstacles. However, in light of the June 7 federal elections, the electoral agency will present an e-voting model designed and built in the country.

The pilot test that will be deployed in District 02 of Chihuahua, District 03 of Aguascalientes, and District 04 of Hidalgo seeks to become the breaking point enabling Mexico to close the technological-electoral gap where it lags behind other Latin American countries.

According to the INE, the organization’s system was built and produced by the Research and Advanced Studies Institute (Cinvestav) from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), following “international canons and protocols.”

Information presented thus far by INE shows that Mexico copied some of the world’s best practices in e-voting. One example of this is the fact that the voting machines have the capacity to print vote receipts on paper, an electoral guarantee pioneered in Venezuela. It was also revealed that the devices have a screen where voters will mark their selection, and at the end of the day the machines will print minutes with the results, which will be immediately transmitted to a data center.

The experience was designed so that voters can interact with 1,500 machines distributed across three districts in the three states chosen for the test after the voting in the federal elections (for 1,996 posts, including local and national deputies, mayors, and heads of delegation). Thus, they can verify the simplicity of the process, as well as the guarantees it offers.

INE’s Statistics and Electoral Documentation Director, Gerardo Martínez, pointed out that aside from the technical benefits e-voting offers, Mexico wants to leverage technology, as the electoral agency estimates that with the jump from paper votes to electronic ones, the cost of each vote would go from 56 cents (0.036 dollars) to 3 cents (0.0019 dollars).

The electoral agency’s bet is that after the e-voting test run, both voters and political actors will act as replicators of the benefits of automation, so that the authorities promote the adoption of technology. This would require a legal reform enabling the use of voting machines, as well as the budget approval for the production of the equipment and the compliance with vital stages such as the information campaign, technician and voter training, and drills, among others.