E-voting positioned in electoral debate in Argentina


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Voting in Argentina is primarily manual (Photo:http://www.infobae.com)

On November 22, Argentina experienced something never seen before: a presidential runoff (the first time this could have happened, it didn’t because Carlos Menem quit his candidacy). However, this was not the only distinctive element of this election. This highlight was fueled by other novelties like the second presidential debate in the democratic history of the country, and the fact that e-voting has been positioned as an issue worth discussing during the campaign.

In fact, due to the poor performance of the manual tallying during the first electoral round—the bulletin was six hours late due to the narrow difference in results—, and the scandalous election in Tucumán, which was declared void due to fraud and then declared valid, automation gained force as an electoral issue. This topic was first addressed by the two candidates to the presidency, and also by the third political force led by Sergio Massa.

The candidate from Cambiemos, Mauricio Macri, stated that he will promote an electoral reform that takes into account the “single ballot, e-voting, or the best technology available in 2017,” while the officialist candidate Daniel Scioli fixed his position in the last weeks of the presidential race. This happened during the election of the Pinamar intendent, when Scioli acknowledged that automated voting “improves transparency in the electoral act.”

On the other hand, “Massism” aims at a transformation of legal administration in several regions throughout the country, and in such reform e-voting plays a prominent role. For example, in Buenos Aires, the movement champions the modification of the voting system to give way to electoral technology. Even the Commission for Political Reform expects to debate the automation project before the end of 2015.

In Argentina, several electoral models coexist, as each province is free to choose and manage its own electoral system. Therefore, multiple ballots (one ballot per political force) are used in the national elections (and most provincial elections), but at the same time, a single ballot is used in Santa Fe.

In Salta and Buenos Aires, the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE) has been implemented. This automates tallying only. Some municipalities in Córdoba tested successfully this year a voting system that automates all of the essential phases of an election.

In light of this diversity, the fact that e-voting is under the spotlight of electoral debate is proof of the importance granted by political forces to the democratic obligation of defending the people’s intent. Until now, Argentina has suffered the many shortcomings and flaws of manual voting, but new leaders are now poised to take on the challenge of modernizing the electoral system of this country.

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Latin America to experience a super Sunday with elections in Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti


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Haitians head to the polling stations under the risk of irregularities, low turnouts, and violence (Photo: almomento.net)

On October 25, Latin America will hold presidential elections in three countries: Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti. The elections come after these three nations had to sort out complicated logistic and technical issues which compromised recent elections and generated doubts about their capacity to deliver reliable results.

Argentina

This South American country carried out general elections in the midst of its strongest electoral crisis in recent times. Throughout the year, Argentina carried out a series of elections in which their manual voting system proved to be inefficient, to say the least. The most emblematic case of how poorly run the election were took place in the province of Tucuman. Initially, after violent protests erupted, the elections were annulled. But later, this measure was revoked by election authorities.

Many leaders and civil associations have come together to promote election automation. This includes going beyond the electronic tallying system implemented in some provinces, such as Salta.

National deputy Julio Cobos, Senate candidate, was emphatic when stating: “it is necessary to advance toward e-voting in order to eliminate difficulties in elections.” “The technology available nowadays is not expensive, schools don’t have to close for days, there’s no paying for ballots.”

Guatemala

Back in September, during the first round of the Presidential elections, the High Electoral Court (TSE) was not able to announce official final results due to the multiple irregularities that occurred during the process.

In spite this major setback, authorities seem confident that they will overcome the obstacles and deliver a good election. However, manual voting remains an obstacle. In light of this looming crisis, the observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) asked for “patience and temperance.”

Although electoral automation is not up for debate in Guatemala, it could certainly become part of the public agenda depending on the results of the second round.

Haiti

The poorest nation in the continent will be carrying out its presidential runoff after first round with delayed results, political violence and errors on voter lists. The contest proved so problematic that in 25 districts it had to be repeated.

This situation provoked the emergence of the Patriotic Resistance group, which demands the dissolution of the electoral commission, the annulment of the first round, and the establishment of a transitional government. Nevertheless, the mission from the United Nations (UN) hoped that global support would be able to take the process to completion last Sunday.

Due to their technical and resource deficiencies, carrying out elections has become a titanic task for Haiti. Although support from the international community has been a constant ever since the 2010 earthquake, the need to renovate its election system and build greater political stability persists.

Electoral scandal brings up need for e-voting in Argentina


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Tucumán gathered political actors around e-voting (Photo: puntoapartesanluis.com.ar)

Argentina’s presidentials are approaching, after a long and complex electoral calendar that is still riddled with problems.

From cancelled projects, detected flaws, allegations of fraud, and technical faults that occurred throughout several electoral events, the situation evolved into one of the country’s largest scandals in recent history: the August 23 elections in Tucumán had to be annulled due to fraud, only to have this decision revoked by the province’s high court.

The Supreme Court is expected to solve the controversy, but this touchy episode has become a tipping point for Argentina’s electoral system. Numerous voices have come together in support of e-voting, stressing the problems that manual voting has brought upon the country.

Currently, provinces like Salta and Buenos Aires are using a model that enables automated tallying. However, although this technology has performed acceptably, it also reveals faults that make it insufficient to safeguard the people’s intent from human error or electoral fraud.

The Radical Civil Union (UCR) is one of the entities championing electoral automation. They have stated: “in light of the recent irregularities seen in local and national elections, this change is urgent, and its goal is to provide the transparency and efficiency for the most important act in modern democracy: elections.”

Buenos Aires deputy and candidate to the Chivilcoy intendency, Guillermo Britos, requested to “advance with e-voting, which will give more transparency and modernity to the democratic system”, while criticizing the fact that “they still vote with a seven-part ballot.” Meanwhile, the Neuquén candidate to the Confluence Council, Néstor Burgos, supported the use of e-voting and invited the electorate “not to be afraid” of electronic ballots.

Senator Danilo Capitani joined the debate insisting on a law facilitating automation. “New technologies can and must be an essential tool to provide transparency and improve citizen participation in the fundamental act of democracy,” he stated.

There is also pressure from the academic arena to stop using ballots and modernize voting. Armando de Giusti, professor at UNLP and main researcher for CONICET, pointed out that “after the current electoral process is finished, we must analyze the use of technological resources in the elections in Argentina.”

With this ongoing discussion, the country must take this bad experience and turn it into an opportunity to safeguard Argentinian vote, including against those who strive to cheat the will of the people. By joining forces around e-voting, political actors seem to have begun to understand this.