Change in Peruvian authorities sparks interest in e-voting

Since years, Peru has had the necessary legislation to modernize voting. This is why they have devoted large sums of money to the developement and progresive implementation of electronic voting. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges and demands that come from successfully implementing an automated voting model.

This story could change in the short term.  The exit of Mariano Cucho as head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), and his replacement by Adolfo Magno Castillo Meza has increased the interest to implement electoral technology in the next general elections.

In his first contacts with the media, Castillo Meza has shown a proclivity to take the steps the nation needs to modernize its elections. “We have to reinforce the use of electronic voting, so harshly criticized during the last elections, not because it’s bad, but because it left the feeling in the population that it wasn’t effective, there were complains about the software, we will carry out an audit to see whether there are failures or not in the design”, he stated.

Peru began its path toward automation in 2011, when the voting machine designed by the Onpe was used for the first time. This device has been used in over a dozen voting events, partially and with some effectiveness, but it has shown a critical performance since 2014. This, because there was not a transparent bid for the acquisition of the technology needed for expanding its use. Later on, both election logistics and preparation were neglected.

The Peruvian automated voting mechanism  consists in a card that, when introduced into the voting machine, activates the options or candidates on a touchscreen. The voter presses their choice and the system processes and stores the choice, before printing a voting voucher at the end.

Facing a revision of the system, the need to update the technology, the decision to invest resources to guarantee a secure and transparent adoption, and the commitment for national advances in electoral matters will be the key points to be addressed. This way, Peru could set foot on the road to electoral modernization once again.

Colombia restarts electorate debate in the aftermath of the Peace Agreement

Foto: La Opinión

The peace that Colombia seems to be reaching demands not only a nationwide commitment, but also deep institutional changes that include the voting system.

In order to execute such a task, the Government has taken its first steps by installing the Special Electoral Mission, conceived to generate advice and turn the ship around on the old and questioned Colombian voting model.

President Juan Manuel Santos formalized the start of operations for the team, as part of fulfilling point number two of the peace agreement signed last November between the Government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

This section refers to the “expansion” of democracy by means of “a greater transparency of the electoral system, which requires a series of immediate measures, especially in the regions where risks and threats persist, as well as an integral revision of the electoral regime, and of the make up and functions of the electoral authorities”.

The Colombian leader stated that this Mission will have three months, expiring in April, to craft “recommendations about the necessary adjustments of the norms and institutions to guarantee greater autonomy and independence of the electoral organization, as well as modernizing and increasing the transparency of the electoral system”.

Given the discredit the current voting model (manual voting with a pre-count) has in the nation, the parts delegated to external and independent entities the design of what could be the future Colombian electoral system, as well as recovering the credibility of the electoral organisms.

Specifically, six out of the seven members of the Mission were selected by the Carter Center, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and the political science departments of the National and Los Andes universities in Colombia; the last spot was granted to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), a local NGO.

With this measure, the country breaks the silence it had kept since 2015 on the modernization of its voting system. Until that date, there had been intermittent work with an advisory commission for the implementation of technology; there was even an international convocation that was attended by 16 companies, meant to carry a pilot test for automated voting.

Despite these efforts, the Colombian initiative to reform voting has been stalled in several occasions.  We hope this new momentum the country has found ends in the enforcement of the Law, which states that voting automation is mandatory, and with a system that has risked the will of the people far too many times being left behind.

Electoral automation in Peru looking for new ways ahead

La Onpe de Perú diseñó una máquina de votación que ha sido probada en varias ocasiones.Last December, the Peruvian National Council of the Magistracy (CNM) presented the surprising decision to announce that the head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), Mariano Cucho, would not be ratified in his position.

According to the CNM arguments, Cucho’s non-fulfilment of some of the objectives planned for his three year tenure (2013-2016) triggered his exit. The delay in the application of e-voting was the item that carried the most weight in the CNM’s evaluation which ruled Cucho should be dismissed.

In the document stating his dismissal, the Council states that “electronic voting was one of (Cucho’s) main proposals, it was a part of his postulation report and a favourable indication for his appointment (…) However, the performance of our evaluation’s subject has only generated mistrust, due to results that have been less than satisfactory”.

Specifically, the document details how during Cucho’s term the number of districts with e-voting went down from 30 to 19, that the financial goals regarding automation were not met, and in the end there were no advances toward the implementation of electoral technology.

Peru has the legislation in place to modernize voting, and has an electronic voting model which has been undergoing testing for years. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges that come from implementing an automated voting model.

For instance, instead of moving forward with voting machines and strengthening their security characteristics,  during the first round of voting – April 10th 2016 – the number of automated voting circuits had to be reduced.  Still, the results for these elections and for those in June (second round) were negative.

The reasons for the misuse of e-voting are rooted in the fact that the ONPE, which at first intended to follow best the practices in the region to design their e-voting system, has neglected its improvement.  Meanwhile, the organism has also neglected the election logistics and preparation, a fact that made evident during last year’s voting through the scant or null information that both voters and poll workers had.

The CNM’s decision opens a new possibility for automation in Peru. Currently, there are 13 people vying to become the head of the Onpe, and there are hopes that by late February there will be an appointment.  The delay in applying electoral technology has been costly for Chucho, but it could be the incentive that manages to do away with the indecisiveness regarding voting automation.