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.

Brazil carries out runoff leveraged by e-voting

brazil biometric

Brazil uses biometric machines to verify the identity of 16.4% of voters.

Nearly three weeks ago, Brazil went to the polling stations and not only consolidated its democratic vocation by having 80.6% of its 141.8 million voters participate in its general elections, but also strengthened its electronic voting system by accomplishing a new electoral event where technology served successfully both the political scheme and the citizens.

Although it has been mentioned before that the country has an electoral platform managed by the executive branch (voting machine manufacturing and running the tally and aggregation system), it is important to remember that since 1996, the country has been working on its own system, which is fully automated nowadays—except for biometric identification, which is applied to only 16.4% of the voting registry (23.3 million voters).

Driven by this reality, the country will vote once again on the October 26th runoff. Brazil applied a plan to reiforce the biometric system for this event in order to improve the level of effectiveness of the voter identity verification technology, which captures voters’ fingerprints.

The High Electoral Court expects to rise effectiveness from 91.5% reached by biometric ballot boxes during the first round, to more than 95% during the run-off. Giuseppe Janino, the TSE’s IT Secretary, informed that more than one thousand machines were repaired and the training plan was strengthened in order to alleviate the delays that affected four states out of the nation’s 27.

While offering better guarantees in biometry, TSE ensures that Brazilian e-voting is prepared to fulfill the demanding event. Brazil’s e-voting is based on a machine having small screen and a numeric keyboard where voters type the numbers assigned to their candidates. Then they verify their vote on a picture appearing onscreen and press the “confirm” button. At the end of the event, several minutes are printed with the results of the election. One of them is stored on a magnetic disk and then transmitted through the secure network of the High Electoral Court. The system is subjected to several audits, requiring electronic signatures from all the actors.

This Sunday, Brazil will use 530,000 e-voting machines. As a side benefit, citizens can download a TSE app for cell phones or tablets to get to know details of the process and access electoral results in real time. Automation has been an ally to this nation, and this runoff will be a new opportunity to confirm the value of technology.