Argentina and Costa Rica delay electoral automation


Brazil and Venezuela are world leaders in election automation, with years of successful technology-powered polls between them. On the other, there are countries that, for one reason or another, have been stuck in manual polls despite all the grief that the antiquated system is associated with.

Such is the case for Argentina and Costa Rica. The former advanced on the objective of installing an automated system on a national scale in 2016, but despite their efforts did not manage to make this change. The latter focused on electoral technology and did not finalize any measure.

Argentina spent months debating an electoral reform whose central axis was the progressive adoption of a Single Electronic Ballot (BUE in Spanish). Yet the initiative was abruptly stopped in the senate.

In a scathing editorial, the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion revealed the disconnect between the Argentinian public’s clamor to overhaul the electoral system and the politicians’ pussyfooting, which hints that the latter stand to lose a lot when automation eventually eliminates vote manipulation.

More alarmingly, a scheme proposed by the government for the adoption of BUE’s (the model adopted in Salta) has had a less than stellar performance and had only raised doubts about its capacity so safeguard the voters’ will.

On the other hand, lack of funding has stalled the implementation of e-voting in Costa Rica, where election reforms seem to be languishing in the cellar.   The Electoral Registry Directorate in fact stated that “there is no economic feasibility for this project, at least in the short and medium term”, and that resources should be oriented to other priority areas.

Observers are quick to note that the Costa Rican government should look past the high initial investment needed to implement e-voting and see the larger savings that will be realized in the long term.

Admittedly, the cost of acquiring e-voting solutions seems prohibitive at the outset. After all, software, hardware, training, voter education do cost a lot of money.  Yet expenses drop for subsequent elections since the only maintenance and small upgrades are needed.

When Argentina and Costa Rica resume this debate in 2017, both countries would do well to realize that how important it is for democracies to start modernizing their elections, and how critical it is to select the most secure and efficient automated voting model for their unique needs.

Mexico prepares to close gap in electoral technology

Mexico uses manual voting, which casts a shadow of doubt on results

The electoral reform carried out by Mexico—approved by the General Electoral Institution and Procedure Law—seeks not only to strengthen the country’s electoral system, but also to close the gap in electoral technology makes the country fall behind other Latin American nations.

The path to change became evident this week, when the new National Electoral Institute (INE) scheduled the beginning of the 2014-2015 federal electoral process for next October 7th. This process includes elections in 18 out of the country’s 31 states.

The electoral process will be illustrative of what Mexican elections will be like from now on. Legal changes left INE in charge of most decisions regarding this subject, which means that each state will set up its own elections under rules based on the federal entity’s decisions instead of local laws currently in force. One of the most important aspects in this sense will be the use of electoral technology.

Under the new law, INE will execute the arrangement allowing Mexicans living abroad to vote in the country’s consulates as well as online or by mail.

The decision to automate suffrage for Mexicans living abroad opens the possibility for Mexico to level up with other Latin American countries that have ample experience in e-voting, as it will be possible to advance from this step towards the complete implementation of e-voting within the country.

Mexico has set a three-year deadline to complete the process of implementation of the new technology—scheduled for 2018—, but the authorities expect to use the 2015 regional elections to carry out e-voting tests conducive to its formal implementation. Some regions are already pressing INE to hasten the process, as they were already advanced in the use of technology and they do not want their implementation processes to fall behind.

In addition to this plan, INE’s General Council approved the design of a system that will enable “online accounting for political parties and candidates.” INE’s General Executive Board will be in charge of creating and setting forth an application enabling organization accountability.

These are the first steps for Mexico to leave manual voting in order to level up with other nations in the region that have an automated, safe, and reliable electoral system. The country has made some mistakes in the past—a much questioned tender process for the purchase of technology in Jalisco—, but these can be used as lessons learned to keep automation transparent.