Fast and transparent results neutralized polarization in Argentina

The night of October 27 brought good news for Argentina, as provisional tallies expedited the processing and publication of results. Immediately after the results were published, incumbent president Mauricio Macri acknowledged his defeat, which brought calm to the country after a political campaign marked by polarization.

Thanks to the new logistics and technology platform implemented, the results were reported in record time. Only three hours after the polls were closed, auditable results were published online and no formal complaints about them have been filed so far.

This successful performance of the voting system was largely possible thanks to the technology recently adopted by the Argentine Post. The software used to transmit telegrams directly from voting schools to the computer center, as well as the technology and services of the provisional count, were provided by Smartmatic.

By the 21st hour, 70.48% of telegrams had been digitized, transmitted and loaded onto the system. By midnight, 96.08% had been processed. Only four years ago, at that same hour it had barely been possible to process less than 10% of telegrams.

In order to achieve this electoral milestone, 11,380 Argentine Mail agents were required, who transmitted telegrams from more than 10,000 voting venues to the computer centers. Further, 1700 operators in those centers were in charge of digitizing and loading results to the system. All this data could be queried online right away by political parties.

What happened in this election cast away the crazy criticisms that were made against the incorporation of electoral technology in the country. In addition to sowing doubt, those baseless criticisms fueled political polarization.

The accuracy of the results is one of the best arguments for those who promote the application of technology to register the vote. Argentina overcame all kinds of obstacles and was able to offer timely and reliable scrutiny, which reflected the popular will and legitimized the new authorities. The positive experience lived on October 27 will be key to promoting the expansion of electoral automation and to continue improving the efficiency and transparency of the elections.

Problems with tallying cast shadows over elections in Argentina and Haiti

elecciones-argentinaLast October 25, three elections took place in Latin America. Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti held electoral events, but results were known in only one of them.

While there will be a runoff in Argentina, and in Haiti authorities announced that definite results will be disclosed starting November the 4th, Guatemala was the only country that presented the winner of the election. Let’s take a closer look at each election:

1.- Argentina
The South American country had a high voter turnout—79% of the registry—, but the good news were followed by a  six-hour delay in the presentation of the first official result bulletin.

The election results were very close—there was a 2.5% difference between the first and second candidates—, which caused the National Electoral Chamber to delay the broadcast of the final vote count. This sparked complaints and suspicion all around the country, and also showed how precarious the Argentine manual voting model is.

The country will have its first runoff ever next November 22. The last one did not take place because one of the candidates abandoned the race. However, the slow delivery of results entailed an institutional and political risk that could have been costly, as electoral uncertaintly is one of the most dangerous experiences for democracy. This was made evident by the violent events that took place in Tucumán, Argentina, after the elections of last August.

If the margin is close during the runoff, Argentina will face a challenge that implies the need to start working in the renewal of its electoral system.

2.- Guatemala
Guatemala elected its new president: Jimmy Morales. Although something similar to what Argentina experienced happened here, when a “dead heat” made it impossible to announce results for days, the ample difference between both candidates and a 55% voter turnout made the work of the High Electoral Court (TSE) much easier.

The fact that Guatemala was safe by sheer luck speaks volumes about the poor condition of its electoral system. Democracy is very young in this country, so it is vital to aim toward the development of the electoral platform in order to avoid conflict, which this time was averted, perhaps by sheer luck too.

3.- Haiti
Out of the three countries that held presidential elections, Haiti had the most dramatic results. At the end of the election, the president of the Provisional Electoral Commission of Haiti (CEP), Pierre Louis Opont, announced that it would take ten days (starting November 4) to offer preliminary tally results.

The nation is facing strong setbacks due to its technologic and logistic constraints, aside from its weak institutionality. Although it has received financial and technical aid to run this election, its problems with the voter registry and the tallying phase reveal an urgent need to reform its electoral system.

The international community has the mission of supporting Haitians, but a stronger effort is needed in order to offer the country a voting method that makes it possible to rescue electoral certainty. On the first round, only 18% of those registered (that is, only 990,000 out of a full voting population of 5.5 million citizens) went to the polls. No better turnout is expected from the second round, either.


Chubut unfolds, once again, the weakness of the manual vote

elections in the argentinian province of Chubut

On Sunday, March 20th, the Argentinian province of Chubut held elections for governor, but several weeks have passed and still the winner hasn’t yet been announced. A recount of votes was forced, because of the close results (a difference of 1500 votes) and the fraud allegations (irregularities in the proceedings, wrong charging of the ballot and empty ballot boxes), but there’s still no winner.

Chubut’s obsolete electoral system unfolded how the manual vote can delay the publication of the results with the faithful will of the voters, and also, how the credibility of the institutions is affected and how the trust in the electoral processes is broken.

Argentina has been wanting for years to modernize the vote. Some provinces already have legislation to automate processes, and even have implemented 25 pilot projects in order to make possible the automation of the elections. How ever, there’s no current national governmental plans that states the adoption of technology that could allow the modernization of electoral processes in this nation.

In the absence of results in Chubut, the debate on the implementation of electronic voting cornered again the citizens’, the parties’ and even the Argentinian government’s attention. While Daniel Scioli, Buenos Aires Province Governor and President of the Peronist Party, warned that “it’s unacceptable” that Chubut has not enabled informatics mechanisms, Florencio Randazzo, Interior Minister, complained that a website hadn’t been enabled for citizens to follow online the results that were taking place in each city.

The discussion on the need of improving the electoral system that could guarantee reliable, transparent and Speedy results is just starting, but there are some examples that show how implemented systems have worked in some provinces. In Ushuaia three referendums using e-voting have been already implemented, but the approval to use this system in municipal election was suspended in the Legislature.

As in the region of Chubut, the changes for automation in Argentina won’t go through not because of the possibilities technology brings, but because of political aspects that have hobbled the process. The loss of control of the system and the weakening of patronage are often enemies of the adoption of voting technology.