Mexico advances in two electoral technology processes


Mexico decide to postpone until 2018 what would have been its first binding federal e-voting experience: online voting for nationals abroad. Although this cancellation generated critics among Mexicans abroad, national and state authorities have not stopped the development of the system and they are getting ready to present technology-based improvements.

Speaking of these matters, the National Electoral Institute (INE) announced that the electronic enrolment of Mexicans abroad will be modernized shortly.

According to the latest reports by the INE, out of the millions of Mexicans residing abroad (10 million estimated in the US alone), barely 300 thousand have requested their voter ID; therefore the INE is aiming to make enrolment easier through technology, to the point where 500 thousand Mexicans register to vote.

The Institute believes that technology will encourage participation, as it has in other sectors.  For instance, the United Kingdom proved in 2015 that voters preferred automated voter registration instead of using the postal service.

The Mexican Electoral Registry project only needs the approval of the General Council to be set in motion. This way, Mexicans residing abroad will be able to choose between enrolment via the technological platform or the postal service. The requirements by the INE to enrol are: a birth certificate, proof of address and a photograph.

Also in Mexico, the burough of Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City is planning an automated voted event for June 25th, where it will be decided whether borough president Ricardo Monreal will stay in his position or be asked to leave.

The Electoral Institute (IEDF) considers the use of electronic voting will reduce costs to the minimum and improve turnout. IEDF Chairman Mario Velázquez explained that the voting system is already set.

It is an Internet voting model which was already used in the participative budget process of 2017. The organism explains that users must request a password in advance to log into the voting platform, or go to designated polling stations with voting machines.

This way, while the financial viability of e-voting for Mexicans abroad is being considered, Mexico continues working in the automation of some phases of the voting process (e.g. voter registration), also allowing for the use of technology in different regions. Each one of these actions is important for the full automation of their electoral system.

Ecuador considers improvements on its electoral practices following two elections and a recount


Ecuador held two elections, in February and April- that left more doubts than certainties about their current electoral procedures: manual voting, digitization of the vote counts, and online publishing of the tally. After the elections, the country had to undergo a recount process of 1.2 million votes, which failed to completely dispel suspicions and complaints

Although when it comes to elections, the behaviour of politicians often generates more noise than actual evidence, in Ecuador, the decisions made by the National Electoral Council (CNE) have had such a cost, that they should propel the country to change and make up for their technological gaps.

In 2015, the CNE announced that it cancelled the project that would allow two million Ecuadorians to access e-voting during the2017 elections. The CNE alleged that the initial investment of acquiring the technology was too high, and that there was mistrust about the technology among the public. The authorities pushed back the activation of an automated voting model to 2019.

This contradicts the public statements the Council had for years, which praised their experiences with e-voting in 2014: the one deployed in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, provided by Smartmatic, and the one in Azuay, provided by Magic Software Argentina; both were capable of automating the vote and safeguarding popular will.

Given this refusal to move forward, the country had to settle for some Korean scanners, which were donated to tally the votes and had never been tested. Given how close the second voting round was, they could not provide results on election day, and did so several days later.

This situation generated mistrust, and finally the CNE accepted to carry out a recount on the basis of numerical and signature inconsistencies . CNE president Juan Pablo Pozo considered this problem-free recount to be historical and an example to the world, despite it taking place in absence of the Ecuadorian opposition.

The revision of the vote ratified the results. However, this in addition to the two elections carried out this year, made it evident that the Ecuadorian system needs to be transformed and improved. The authorities must re-embark on the path they were following until 2014 to present the country with the best possible choice: technology that modernizes and guarantees the vote for millions of citizens.

Automated voting for immigrants is the next bet


Immigrant vote tends to be controversial in many countries, not only because the laws of several nations curtail the exercise of this political right, but also because the logistic required to make voting available to foreign nationals often hinders the process.

To turn this around, Mexico, Spain and Portugal are working for solutions. In these three regions electronic voting is being considered as a way to overcome limitations that exclude those who live their lives outside their country of origin, but who are not indifferent to the land they were born in.

In the Mexican case, a nation whose unofficial data shows 10 million of its nationals residing in the US alone, the National Electoral Institute (INE) recently announced the implementation of online voting for Mexican citizens residing abroad for the 2018 presidential elections. This was first planned for 2017, but it was delayed until next year.

According to the Institute, they hope to “within the legal framework, and responsibly, timely and fully present a strengthened remote voting model for the 2017-2018 electoral process, making the best efforts to simplify procedures and requirements as to make the model swifter, more efficient and simpler, so that our fellow Mexicans who have emigrated can have political participation”.

Mexico’s statement echoes the recurring complains by voters abroad, namely that they usually face difficulties to register and validate their condition as voters, primarily due to the condition set by some nations of having legal residency, or the fear to disclose their migratory status.

In addition, there are technical and logistic challenges that hinder the exercise of democracy.  For instance, the reception of the wrong electoral materials at the diplomatic missions, and the location of polling stations, which tend to be set in consulate or embassies far away from where many citizens live.

To sort these problems out, Portugal planned to implement an e-voting model aimed specifically at this sector of the population. This nation claims that during their most recent elections, the October 2015 legislative elections, only 11.68% of the 242,852 voters residing outside its territory went to the polls.

The Lusitanic country considers it urgent to “palliate a problem that diminishes the capacity of electoral participation for our citizens abroad”, through the introduction of postal or Internet enrolment, and the use of e-voting as an alternative to in-person or mail voting.

Finally Spain, and particularly Catalans, have complained about the lack of legislation that regulates political participation for immigrants, as well as the absence of a technological mechanism to fix the difficulties of organizing elections outside the national territory.

While these three nations advance in their internal discussions, they could consider the e-voting experiences of immigrants in different countries for their debate. There are the cases of Switzerland and The Philippines, where different automation models guarantee electoral egality among their own citizens residing either at home or abroad

Swiss citizens who live abroad can also vote online. This method contemplates the voters receiving their electoral materials via post, together with a six-digit password, so they can log into a designated website and gain access to the ballot.

On the other hand, the Commission on Elections of the Philippines (Comelec) extended the e-voting capabilities it successfully applied for the first time in 2010 to seven of the countries that host Filipino citizens, namely China (Hong Kong), Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah) and Kuwait.