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.

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Ecuador goes to the polls again


12.8 million Ecuadorians are called to vote on February 19th to elect a new President of the Republic, 137 members of the National Assembly and 5 legislators to the Andean Parliament.

For months, the country debated and questioned the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of accepting a “donation” of 2 thousand devices to be used for vote counting and the broadcast of results.

Until today, and after three simulations carried out during the preparation stage of the election, the authorities have limited themselves to communicate that the system is ready; however, they have not offered details on how the vote counting scanners performed.

Facing this lack of information, it is good to remember the critical steps Ecuador must take – steps on which its political and institutional stability will rest.

First, there is the matter of rapid counts, which are nothing but preliminary voting results.  During these elections, the CNE will debut this process, and it will be based in the selection of a random sample -between 25% and 30%-  of the Vote Reception Boards, i.e. the location where the certified election returns are tallied. A total of 9,617 people in the country were trained for this task.  Additionally, 650 people will operate the call centre that will receive the reports resulting from this quick count, so they are made public a few hours after the polls close.

The second step that calls for attention will be the scanning of the election returns.  CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo explained that as soon as the voting is over, the members of the Vote Reception Boards will begin the count and the filling of certified election returns, which will then be handed inside a sealed envelope to a collecting police officer so they are taken to the scanning area. There, the returns will be digitized and sent through an electronic system to be posted online and be made publicly accessible.

Although this mechanism may seem diligent, Pozo himself has stated that the official forecast is to present conclusive results five days after the polls close. This, given the country was satisfied with having only preliminary results on election day and using equipment that fails to improve the model, since the devices only scan and transmit manual election returns.

Next Sunday we will know if the statistical approximations of quick counts were enough or, to the contrary, if the country’s electorate and the political climate demanded expedient official results.  Right then is when the lack of a speedy vote processing system such as e-voting will be made evident.  The die is cast.  We can only wait.

Ecuador goes to the polls with more doubts than certainty


Foto: Últimas Noticias

On February 19th, Ecuador will be holding general elections. In preparation for this event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) carried out their third simulation test of the electoral infrastructure and declared themselves ready.

According to the authorities, during the last test before the elections – February 5th – the 1,799 locations that will be working during election day were activated, and their operational readiness was proved.

CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo stated the system is “completely ready” to fulfil the process, where a new President, 137 members of the National Assembly, and 5 legislators for the Andean Parliament will be elected.

“All systems have passed the certification norms the Electoral Council has today; therefore, we guarantee the country this will be a flawless process”, stated Pozo, without mentioning the results of the test.  Regrettably, there is little know about the the performance of the quick count – previously an exit poll, and now in the hands of the CNE. There were also no comments on the performance of the donated scanners that will be used to put the certified electoral returns online.

Political parties have voiced concerns about the voter roll and as the quick count process; the latter aims to deliver preliminary results three hours after the polls close.

Some political spokespeople have also voiced concerns over the selection of the Vote Reception Boards, which will be in charge of issuing non-official results, given the fact they were not chosen in accordance to the nation’s voting distribution and the risk which that entails.

Other political parties have questioned the lack of audits on the technology, the voter rolls, and the system itself.  Gilmar Gutiérrez, leader of Partido Sociedad Patriótica (PSP), denied that any party has attended the alleged revisions carried out by the CNE.

Despite the concerns, the stage is set in Ecuador. 12.8 million voters are called to the polls. Both the non-official results and the use of equipment to scan the election returns and transmit them are generating more suspicions than certainties, but we will have to wait to evaluate this process on which the nation’s political stability depends.