Latin America took decisive steps toward e-voting on 2014


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2014 elections as reviewed on this infographic by The Economist

2014 could be considered “an electoral feast” as 42% of the world’s population was called to vote. Such staggering number was set due to the fact that 42 countries carried out elections, and among them, 10 from Latin America.

The balance of the year for Latin America shows Brazil further strengthening its supremacy in electoral automation, while Panama, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador taking firm steps to modernizing their voting systems.

Ecuador carried out the most complex test, as it experimented with two different technologies during the February elections. The province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used Smartmatic’s touchscreen voting machines that print a vote receipt on paper. Meanwhile, in Azuay, the electoral body deployed an electronic tallying system designed by Argentina’s MSA.

Paraguay, which joined the elite of countries with electoral regulations for the implementation of e-voting in 2013, announced that it is currently evaluating whether it will repeat last year’s experience, in which 17,000 Brazilian voting machines were used.

Costa Rica showed its people the technology it hopes to adopt for the upcoming 2016 elections, by letting voters interact with the voting machines designed by the High Electoral Court (TSE).

Meanwhile, during its general elections in May, Panama tested out technology developed by the Electoral Court (TE), which reproduces features from systems already tested in other countries, such as a card-activated touchscreen machine displaying candidates to press on in order to vote.

Peru became the only “black spot” in a year of electoral successes. Instead of building on the system designed designed by the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE), the nation opted to approve a not very transparent tender bid for the development of the automated system’s software. This has sparked a lot of problems, and will force the country to revise its application in future elections.

Finally, Brazil once again showed the world why it is considered one of the world leaders in vote automation. Its large, election-tested platform was deployed twice in October.

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


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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.

The next three years will be crucial for automation reinforcement


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Impacto

Next year will be key for electoral automation. Not only will pioneering countries in e-voting consolidate their position as axis of modern suffrage, but other nations will also apply pilot tests or carry out elections with the support of electoral technology, thus setting a milestone in the process of e-voting expansion.

Seven Latin American countries are hoping to abandon manual voting in the upcoming three years in order to consolidate automated voting systems that provide security, speed, and transparency.

First of all, Bolivia and several districts in Argentina —each region in the country is autonomous to decide what system to use— will implement different automation models in 2015. In Bolivia, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) announced that it expected to use e-voting during the regional elections taking place in April in the smallest townships of each province. This would be the first step toward the transformation of the electoral system.

Argentina’s deployment includes regions such as Carlos Paz in Córdoba, Río Negro, Tucumán y Neuquén. These regions have been making separate efforts to reach the goal of e-voting implemenation. Some other provinces (e.g., Salta) have already implemented e-voting partially.

The Cordoba districts of Río Negro and Neuquén have disclosed some details about their automated systems. Carlos Paz aims at automating “the political party and candidate registry, vote emission, vote recount, and the transmission of results,” while Río Negro, which has already used technology designed by Altec (a state-run firm), hopes to test automation models used in other nations. Finally, Neuquén approved the use of paper receipts in its machines.

In 2016, Costa Rica, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico will begin to automate their systems. Costa Rica conducted tests on its e-voting model last April. The system is similar to the one used in other countries of the region, such as the US and Venezuela, as it is uses touchscreen devices where each voter can press on his or her preferred option and the device prints a vote receipt to confirm the voter’s selection.

Meanwhile, Peru designed its own system, but the lack of resources to disseminate its application has held back the implementation process. The country’s capital, Lima, will hold an election in 2016 under this model, which involves the use of a card that activates the voting session when introduced in the machine. Voters press on their preferred option, the system stores the vote, and the process ends with the emission of a paper vote receipt.

Puerto Rico also plans to automate its elections in 2016, while Dominican Republic has reached an agreement with Venezuela regarding the rental of their voting machines to carry out a pilot test conducive to the adoption of electoral technology.

The cycle will be closed by Ecuador, which held a binding e-voting test last February and experimented with three different automation models. After the success of this event, it has agreed to automate elections for half of the country in 2017.