The Dominican Republic fails in their attempt to modernize their voting system

The Dominican Republic have failed in their attempt to partially automate their voting system during the general elections  carried out on May 15th.

Different voices inside and outside the country have pointed out that non-compliance of internationally followed standards doomed this attempt at modernizing the vote.

For their most recent voting process, the Central Electoral Board hired the Spain-based Indra Sistemas to provide biometric identification and automated voting technology.  Results were clearly negative, given the logistic, technical and operational errors found both in the fingerprint capture devices and the vote counting machines.  Regrettably, the company’s lack of experience in biometric voter authentication and electronic vote counting was all too clear.

NGO Participación Ciudadana published a report stating the several problems encountered during the election, highlighting they included delays in opening polling centres due to issues with and the lack of biometric ID and counting units.   There were anomalies in 62.4% of the circuits with the vote counting machines, and in 40.4% of them with voter verification, while “30.7% of the polls registered problems with ballot scanning and 30.9% with electoral data transmission”, with the result that 97.7% of the centres had to resort to manual counting.

In view of these results, the NGO states that the electronic vote count and transmission, namely the novelty of this election, “were largely handicapped by the lack of equipment, the failures of the available working devices, and the scant little capacity to solve problems (…) to the extent that at 10:00 PM, four hours after the closing of the polls, only 20% of the electoral data had been transmitted, which forced the authorities to resort to manual vote counting at all three levels (presidential, regional and local)”.

These problems were confirmed in the preliminary report of the Organization of American States (OAS) observation mission, which states that “the weakest point of the day was the voting equipment used”.   The report goes on to mention that “in several centres equipment was missing, tech support staff did not show up, or there were connectivity and operation issues with the biometric control and automated vote counting machines”, so “the implementation of manual counting was needed to overcome these multiple setbacks”.

In addition to this, the authorities underestimated the importance of carrying out tests that could have prevented these problems on time, or opting for a gradual implementation of the technology.  Even the OAS highlighted the need for its progressive implementation.

The Dominican Republic now faces the possibility of having thrown away public trust and sizable public resources, which could have been used to provide the country with a voting system that not would have automated some stages of the process only, but would have added technology and security to the election as a whole.

Argentina prepares a reform to allow nationwide e-voting


Argentina had a 2015 full of difficulties when it came to electoral matters.  First, a tight electoral schedule that forced a series of voting events all over the country; and second, there were failures not only with manual voting, but also with the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE) used in some regions.

Facing the need to fix such issues, the country eagerly awaits the electoral reform that the Executive will put forward in the upcoming weeks.   The authorities have set to create a law that deals with the modernization of the voting system, where automation could replace the country’s outdated manual procedures.

Regarding the discussion this proposal entails, and which is now taking place in the political sphere, it is worth noting that successful automation cases have all dutifully taken a series of provisions, such as: adopting automation progressively; evaluating the local infrastructure and all possible obstacles; considering the system’s sustainability (i.e. its endurance and worthiness over time), and searching and comparing a variety of offerings in the market.

When it comes to automation, Argentina is already under way.  In the year 2015, e-voting was successfully implemented in the Cordoba province , and the province of  Salta and the city of Buenos Aires saw automated vote counting.

Finding the right automation model is a tall order, since there are several offerings from different companies.  When it comes to choosing, it is vital to carry out a bidding process that meets the highest standards, and which considers the summons of international, experienced suppliers.  The technology to be implemented must provide a flexible e-voting model, one which meets the legal, technical and financial needs of the country, as well as its idiosyncrasies.

The challenges are varied, but it is necessary that all authorities, political parties and citizens are careful about all the aspects of automation.  Technology can be used to make any step of an election easier, but its proper and massive use will make the difference between automated and manual processes.

The ABCs of e-voting (Part II)

electronic votingThe basic concepts of e-voting not only allow for an approach to the voting model that is gaining ground worldwide, but also for understanding the transcendental leap that countries are taking when leaving behind manual voting and its shortcomings, and opening themselves to the possibilities offered by electoral technology.

What follows are some concepts to help readers understand what is automated voting and how it operates.

6.- Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE) Among the several mechanisms available for automation, this one is the most used internationally. It consists of marking votes directly on a machine through a touchscreen, buttons or a similar instrument.
The voting information is stored in the (voting machine) computer’s storage, a diskor a smart card.  It’s different from other systems, since it transmits results when the polls close and therefore does not require network connectivity during the election. It guarantees a quick and secure count at the end of the day. An advantage offered by some DRE machines is the emission of a voting voucher.

7.-Optical scan voting systems: This is an automation procedure for vote counting, where an optical  ballot reader or scanner is used; this device reads ballots of special designs  hand marked by voters, which are fed manually into it. This way the votes are registered and tallied.  The device stores the count in its memory.  In America, the only country that has partially used this technology is Argentina (Salta province and the city of Buenos Aires).

8.- Biometrics: Biometric information  went from being a technology commonly used in the business world (as a mechanism for access control, for instance) to being adopted by the electoral world.  Today, some countries can be an example for those that lack tools to verify the identities of voters; a couple of such examples would are  Brazil andVenezuela, leaders in electoral technology in Latin America, where e-voting models that include biometrics are in use.
The South American giant has machines with numerical keypads that register the user’s fingerprints before the voting takes place, while Venezuelans have an Integral Authentication System (SAI), fingerprint capture devices that unblock the attached voting machines only in the case of successful biometric authentication.

9.- Voter Verified Paper Trail, (VVPAT): With the intention of guaranteeing the reliability of the vote, those countries that choose to use e-voting tend to use voting machines capable of printing voting vouchers.
This method is called “Voter Verified Paper Trail” or VVPAT This is a valuable technique that lets the voter check in real time that the choices printed on paper match the ones  that were registered at the machine.    The voucher also allows to check printed vote receipts against the automated tallies in the precinct counts, in audits performed after polls close or later on.

10.- Electoral guarantees: Electoral guarantees are rules and tools that allow a State, usually the entity organizing the event, and the voters to have secure elections in a stable environment.  Elections guarantees not only come from the several automated mechanisms that enhance security and its perception during voting, but also from all the legal instruments and agreements between the political actors that give greater transparency to the process.