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.

Mexico delays online voting to its citiens abroad

Mexico´s National Electoral Institute (INE) recently announced its decision to delay the implementation of an online voting alternative for Mexican nationals residing abroad, for this year’s state elections and the 2018 presidential vote.

The decision stems from a lack of budget to study, acquire and install an e-voting system, but also from a “lack of technical certainty” about the remote voting model the institute sought to implement.

According to the latest INE registries, out of the millions of Mexicans residing abroad (10 million estimated in the US alone), only 200k have requested their voter ID’s; the voting organism states it lacks both the time and the resources to meet the deadlines to guarantee an optimal use of the technology, which technicians consider key to facilitate enrolment and, therefore, turnout.

The news was not well received by activists abroad. Carlos Arango, representative of the Coalition for the Full Political Rights of Mexicans Abroad, considered the cancellation of the project to be “another taunt, another insult to Mexicans abroad”. For him, it is political, and not technical, variables that are hindering progress: “They fear our impact. They fear we might change the course of the election”, he stated.

On the other hand, one of the main political parties in the election, PRD, rejected the delay of automation, stating that the lack of political will is going to force Mexicans abroad to wait at least six more years to vote in presidential elections.

These criticisms were answered by the INE, which claimed the delay of the plan “does not mean e-voting from abroad is cancelled in the future, since there is an institutional commitment to advance the project”. The organism even promised to “design the alternatives and development routes for the system”.

Given the public and political complains, and the disposition of the authorities, activists and political parties must see this delay as a chance to get ready for the time when Mexico reopens the discussion on voting automation.

When that time comes, the debate can deepen, so it not only involves the partial use of electoral technology (i.e. limited to citizens abroad), but that it can also make inroads into choosing the safest and more effective e-voting model for the Republic as a whole.

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.