Electoral scandal brings up need for e-voting in Argentina


Tucumán gathered political actors around e-voting (Photo: puntoapartesanluis.com.ar)

Argentina’s presidentials are approaching, after a long and complex electoral calendar that is still riddled with problems.

From cancelled projects, detected flaws, allegations of fraud, and technical faults that occurred throughout several electoral events, the situation evolved into one of the country’s largest scandals in recent history: the August 23 elections in Tucumán had to be annulled due to fraud, only to have this decision revoked by the province’s high court.

The Supreme Court is expected to solve the controversy, but this touchy episode has become a tipping point for Argentina’s electoral system. Numerous voices have come together in support of e-voting, stressing the problems that manual voting has brought upon the country.

Currently, provinces like Salta and Buenos Aires are using a model that enables automated tallying. However, although this technology has performed acceptably, it also reveals faults that make it insufficient to safeguard the people’s intent from human error or electoral fraud.

The Radical Civil Union (UCR) is one of the entities championing electoral automation. They have stated: “in light of the recent irregularities seen in local and national elections, this change is urgent, and its goal is to provide the transparency and efficiency for the most important act in modern democracy: elections.”

Buenos Aires deputy and candidate to the Chivilcoy intendency, Guillermo Britos, requested to “advance with e-voting, which will give more transparency and modernity to the democratic system”, while criticizing the fact that “they still vote with a seven-part ballot.” Meanwhile, the Neuquén candidate to the Confluence Council, Néstor Burgos, supported the use of e-voting and invited the electorate “not to be afraid” of electronic ballots.

Senator Danilo Capitani joined the debate insisting on a law facilitating automation. “New technologies can and must be an essential tool to provide transparency and improve citizen participation in the fundamental act of democracy,” he stated.

There is also pressure from the academic arena to stop using ballots and modernize voting. Armando de Giusti, professor at UNLP and main researcher for CONICET, pointed out that “after the current electoral process is finished, we must analyze the use of technological resources in the elections in Argentina.”

With this ongoing discussion, the country must take this bad experience and turn it into an opportunity to safeguard Argentinian vote, including against those who strive to cheat the will of the people. By joining forces around e-voting, political actors seem to have begun to understand this.

Scytl in Ecuador and Mexico: Is it the same screenplay?

The Spanish Company Scytl seems to be developing a knack for controversies, in the same vein as that used in 2014 to lure entrepreneurs like Paul Allen, and investment groups as Vy Capital, in order to tap millions of US$ in investment roundtables.

It is a dangerous combination of incompetency, arrogance and effrontery that made Scytl the center of several scandals around the world, in a very short space of time. Only in 2014, Canada, Norway, Peru and Ecuador suffered firsthand “the Scytl experience”.

In 2015 it is now Mexico´s turn. The National Electoral Commission (INE) contracted this Spanish company last September 30th, 2014 to supply an online accounting system for political parties, made up of three modules: Accounting, Controlling and Transparency.

However, on December 14th alarms went off, as Scytl did not submit the first module of the accounting system on time. Since then, all facts are remarkably similar to what happened a year ago during Ecuador´s sectional elections. On that occasion Scytl failed in its attempt to deliver electoral results on time. It was not about a delay of hours, but of weeks that took Syctl to deliver the results expected that very election evening.

After a whole month of delay in delivering the results in Ecuador, the noncompliance with obligations by Syctl was very evident. In spite of that, the company refused to accept its failures and blamed the Ecuadorian Electoral Commission. To date, the Syctl website refers to the Ecuadorian experience as a total success. Last week, in light of the early termination of the Service Contract by Mexico, the company reacted similarly: washing its hands.

But coincidences do not end with a simple and binding failure of the service. A month after the elections, the Ecuadorian National Electoral Commission (CNE) took action on this matter and Syctl´s Contract was declared null and void. The contract was unilaterally terminated and the corresponding warranty charges were applied.

Through its spokesman, the company´s CEO Pere Valles, expressed his surprise at the Ecuadorian Government procedure and warned of legal actions. But is it a coincidence, or is there a modus operandi here? Precisely this week, after INE´s announcement, Pere Valles was surprised and launched a threat to the Mexican authorities.

In Ecuador (2014), much to the amazement of public opinion, Valles accused Domingo Paredes —then the President of the Ecuadorian Electoral Commission— of having an arrangement with another contractor. “We believe this (the decision) reflects the CNE President´s interest in working with another contractor” said Scytl CEO to EFE

On this occasion and during the MVS news broadcast of Carmen Aristegui, Scytl insinuated that the early termination of the Contract by INE was political in nature.

Time will pass and we will see. INE defends itself giving details on the Contract and explaining why the early termination. As yet, this Scytl threat seems to be just a simple intimidation to the electoral body, in an effort to preserve its reputation in other places, where this story —which is turning into a ritornello— may not make it to the news.

Either Bolivia modernizes itself or voting and institutionalism will continue to be jeopardized


In Bolivia, manual voting affects the key phase of tallying and aggregation.

In Bolivia, after the 12 October presidential elections, part of the population applauded—the supporters of the newly reelected Evo Morales—, but nobody     celebrated. An outdated electoral system with no guarantees forced the country to  follow exit polls to anticipate results, as the High Electoral Court (TSE) was able  to broadcast the information from only 2.89% of the polling stations at the end of  the event.

The meager count did not stop President Morales, who proclaimed himself the winner. Meanwhile, opponents and citizens believed the projections from the polls, certainly fueled by the wide margin obtained by the winner: 60% of the votes. In any other democratic country, it would have been unacceptable that the polls dictated what the official results should have.

According to the TSE spokesman, Ramiro Paredes, the debacle in the electoral system obeyed to “problems in the data transmission system, which overheated, became slow, and did not pass the tests we had established. We were also worried about hack threats we received.”

With the passing of days, TSE’s inability to complete the key process of counting and aggregating votes has become apparent—90% of the voting stations in four days—, as well as other vital stages, as more irregularities have come to light as the tallying process advances incredibly slowly:  discrepancies between the data published on tse’s website and the repetition of the elections in 12 polling stations at the El Torno district and one in La Guardia due to multiple anomalies. This led to the announcement that the country will have its final results in November.

What happened in Bolivia could have been a tragedy in nations with conflicts or strong political tensions. The TSE was unable to carry out the elections seamlessly and safely, dooming the system to criticism and doubt in the future.

Since 2010, the country has voiced intentions to update its electoral platform by using an e-voting model after having accomplished a biometric registry, which recorded voters’ fingerprints. However, in four years the country has done very little to provide its citizens with a decent, reliable electoral system.

The vices and problems in the recent electoral processes seem to indicate that the time for hesitation has run out in this nation. The TSE has said that Bolivia is prepared to take on the technological challenge of voting electronically in 2015, at least partially. The country needs to advance and modernize its vote; otherwise it will continue to jeopardize voting and Democracy.