E-voting has a successful debut in Ecuador

Smartmatic Ecuador Elections 2014

Ecuadorians in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used e-voting during the February 23 elections (Image CNE Ecuador)

On Sunday, February 23rd, Ecuador took a great step towards the modernization of its electoral system. The South American nation went to the polls to renew its provincial authorities (23 prefects, 221 mayors, 1,305 councilmen and 4,079 members of the parish boards).

The provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas had the opportunity to experience the benefits of e-voting in two legally binding pilots coordinated by the National Electoral Council.

The experience in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas has a particular historical significance, since results were announced barely an hour after the polls had closed.

Over 300 thousand voters in Santo Domingo used electoral technology provided by the multinational company Smartmatic, the only one which recorded and tallied votes automatically and with a 100% precision.

For Daniel Sánchez Anchundia, aged 28 and affected by cerebral palsy, the implementation of e-voting in Santo Domingo was a blessing. Thanks to the machine’s user-friendly interface, Daniel could vote by pressing the screen with his right hand, and after a minute, the machine printed a voucher that he picked up and gave his mother so she could deposit it in a ballot box.

According to statements by the National Electoral Council project manager, Alfredo Paredes, “the e-voting we used in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, in addition to being safe, allowed citizens to cast their votes easily. This technology we used has been tested in elections in many other countries, which meant a successful project for us.”

Meanwhile, the system used in Azuay had some setbacks, to the point that in Ponce Enríquez canton e-voting was temporarily halted due to failures in the system and problems with the pictures of candidates belonging to the same list. There were also machine replacements, complaints about delays and an unfamiliarity of the public with the operation of the machines.

On the other hand, Wilfredo Penco, general coordinator for the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) commission of observers, showed his satisfaction with the process and stated that, with the exception of certain incidents, everything took place without significant issues.

Three companies will put e-voting to the test in Peru

Peru’s Onpe designed a voting machine, but it will test out technology from three foreign companies.

ImageOn July 7th, Peru will once again carry on the task of showing the country the benefits e-voting can bring to the electoral system. The National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE) invited three companies to test out the effectiveness of their technology in the Cañete district in the town of Pacarán, during the recall referendum for municipal authorities.

The foreign expert companies deploying their faculties in Peru are Smartmatic, a London-based multinational, Colombia’s Voting Solutions, and Argentina’s Magic Software Argentina (MSA). The goal for all of them is to exhibit what their electoral technology can do to modernize suffrage. ONPE’s call for next month is a good opportunity to show the world the advances that allow different countries in the region, as well as others from Europe and Asia, to have safe and reliable automated elections nowadays.

Smartmatic will show in Peru a technology that can cover all the stages of the elections in their entirety, from project management (logistics, recruiting, and training) up to satellite communication services, plus all the equipment to hold a completely automated voting event. Smartmatic´s solution for Peru involves biometric devices to authenticate the voters at the polling station, and touch screen voting machines to capture the voters´ intent. All of this while scrutiny, tallying, and transmission are done electronically. The equipment has modules to facilitate voting for citizens with motor, visual, and hearing disabilities.

Colombia’s Voting Solutions will work with a touch screen machine that contains a kit for the visually challenged (number keyboard and headphones). It also has an “administrative terminal” to incorporate the voting registry and thus identify voters for giving them access to the machines. Besides, it offers the option of biometry and digital signature.

The third invited company is Argentina’s MSA. Their machine works with software that allows the voter to “navigate” through the options to vote. It has a printer that reproduces the vote, and it also has mechanisms to store selections digitally in a chip. The machine also has a vote verifier and an assistance kit for the visually challenged.

These companies will accompany Peru in the new electoral event, and although at first glance they might seem to have similarities in the components of their equipment, they are vastly different in their method to shield suffrage and the whole process (encrypting, digital signatures, auditing possibilities), as well as in their capacity to attend to the production requirements. ONPE will have to consider which system adapts best to its necessities and select the most appropriate one to carry out its so-called litmus test: next November’s complementary elections. In this event, voting will be automated in two districts in Lima, where 1 million people are expected to vote.

Russia and the transition to electronic voting

A little over a week ago, Russia held local elections in 74 of the 83 federal entities. More than 24 million voters were called to the polls to elect about 3.200 positions, for which 50.000 candidates were nominated. This big event served as a “rehearsal” for the December elections, and it was notable that several locations used electronic voting.

Russia has been interested in the automated electoral system for several years now, but it was in 2010 when Russia approved the legislation to modernize its electoral system. In that year, the secretary of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Nikolai Konkin, visited Brazil to attend the presidential election and assess the applicability of the Brazilian model, which uses keyboard machines that automate the elections 100%.

“This electronic voting experience will be taken into account for the modernization of the electoral process in the Russian Federation. The CEC is developing the appropriate program, which is expected to be approved this November”, said Konkin last year when he visited Brazil as an international observer.

In the following months, Russia laid the foundations for electronic voting, and in March 13th 2010, several of its provinces experimented with a modern automated system. Bashkiria was one of the provinces that experienced e-voting, using machines with audio guides to guide the voters in simple and fast steps to complete the voting process.

The machines deployed worked as follows: once the voter was proven to be eligible to vote and received a card to activate the voting machine, the touch screen presented the nominated candidates. The citizen had to touch on the screen for marking his or her choice, and then pressed the confirmation botton. Then, the machine printed a paper proof of the vote. When the voting process finished, the votes from the ballot were counted, aggregated and transmitted to a computer center. An information Centre provided by the CEC, allowed the Russians to know the results in real time.

Another technology tested in Russia were the “mobile” or “itinerant” voting machines used in this occasion.  These machines were taken to the houses of disabled voters, who couldn’t mobilize to the polling stations due to illnesses or age factors. The displacement was monitored with the Russian navigation satellite system GLONASS.

The results of the e-voting implementation in Russia are being fully analyzed. The criticisms of the process that have been made by the political actors haven’t been technological in nature, but political. For this reason, the CEC has declared the process as successful.