Experts and politicians show the vulnerabilities of Bolivia’s election system


In Bolivia, tallying and aggregation -the two most important stages of the elections- are done manually.

Last March, during Bolivia’s autonomous and municipal elections, the High Electoral Court proved to be very inefficient. The country had to rely on exit polls conducted on Election Day in order to know election results; simply because authorities were unable to process and announce official results timely,

TSE spokesman Ramiro Paredes has admitted that the flaws in the tallying process were caused to “problems in the data transmission system, which overheated, became slow, and did not pass the tests we had prepared.”

Seven months after this paux pas, political parties, electoral specialists, and consultants have mentioned that the worst vulnerability of the election system is the delay in vote counting.

Electoral strategist Ricardo Paz recently acknowledged that “unfortunately we have a very slow tallying program.” He called for the “use of technological tools,” to streamline the process. Following that same line of thought, the election spokesman from the Tarija province, Nolberto Gallardo, pointed out that “it is necessary to keep advancing (…). We need to make improvements to provide better results.”

Norma Piérola, Deputy from the Christian Democrat Party (PDC) joined these voices, considering that the non-implementation of e-voting or “modernized and accelerated computing” was taking a serious toll on the legitimacy of its elections. Officialist senator from the Socialist Movement (MAS), Adriana Salvatierra, also observed that election automation would be favorable.

In light of all these, it becomes utterly evident that the time to act has come for Bolivia and its election authorities. The adoption of an electronic voting system would improve the speed with which results are offered, and would also provide major electoral guarantees.

The problems faced by Bolivia during the latest election processes indicate that the margin for indecision in Bolivia is gone. TSE has said that the country is prepared to take on the technologic challenge—now it must prove that there is also commitment to do so.


The Philippines to expand its election automated platform

In 2010, the Philippines became the first Asian country to outsource the implementation of a National Election. Four years later, authorities are looking to further embrace technology by calling for bidding processes to select electoral technology and services providers.

Recently, the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided to acquire 23,000 new Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines to process manually filled ballots in the 2016 General Elections. The OMR machines would add to the existing 82,200 Precinct-based Counting Optical Scanners (PCOS) purchased by the elections commission that were used both with great success in 2010 and 2013.

Authorities are expecting to award this new P2.5 billion contract in February 2015. To such purpose, they have devised a two-stage bidding process. Initially, five firms had shown interest, yet only Indra Sistemas and Smartmatic-TIM formally submitted proposals. On Monday, December 15, both were declared eligible to participate in the second round.

Although the Spanish-based company has not participated in any of the recent elections in this Asian archipelago, it does have some bidding experience for such projects. In 2009, Indra’s bid to provide the technology for the 2010 General Elections was 35% higher than the approved budget, a main reason for its disqualification. The firm’s largest stakeholder is the Spanish government, through Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (S.E.P.I.) – with 20.14%. Its focus on defense and surveillance technology has sparked controversy in the country, as it is viewed by some as a sort of Conquistador 2.0.

Smartmatic has already participated in previous Filipino elections. During the 2010 General Elections and the 2013 Midterm Elections, the company provided technology and services. Although the elections were hailed as a success by authorities and some observation missions, they’ve been surrounded by controversies. From afar, it is hard to distinguish the facts from the fiction in a country so prone to astroturf organizations, which anonymously spread rumors and fake allegations.

Also, looking ahead, authorities are considering on a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine to be tested. Up until now, the voting method has stayed manual, leaving the bulk of the technology only to handle the processes of counting, transmitting and consolidating results. Smartmatic and Scytl were the two companies bidding for full automation, but Scytl was unanimously declared ineligible by the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), due to deficiencies in its eligibility documents and initial technical proposal.

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.