Ecuador’s CNE appoints authorities for the next 3 years


Paúl Salazar, newly elected president of the CNE, salutes his new vice president, Mauricio Tayupanta, after inauguration. Photo: El Tiempo

On January 8th, 2015, the new board of the National Council of Ecuador was elected. Paul Salazar and Mauricio Tayupanta were appointed president and vice president, respectively. Moreover, Juan Pablo Pozo and Nubia Villacís were re-elected as counselors.

Mr. Salazar assumed his new role in the institution proposing an internal review in order to implement reforms conducive to higher efficiency. To this end, he indicated that he considers it necessary to carry out a deep, all-encompassing reform in the operational and legal areas of the Democracy Code.

With the appointment of these new authorities, president Domingo Paredes’ term ended. He led the institution for only three years. One of Paredes’ merits was to achieve a significant international projection for the CNE. During his term, he promoted important agreements with electoral authorities from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Russia, which enabled successful e-voting pilots in the provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. On the other hand, Paredes’s impartiality was questioned by those opposing the government of President Correa. Besides, he was strongly criticized for the way he handled certain situations, such as the invalidation of signatures to register political parties, or the failed tallying of precinct counts provided by Scytl, a process whose purpose was to hasten the official results from the past sectional elections.

Regarding electoral automation, Paúl Salazar is ready to meet the scheduled timeline set by the previous administration, in which he served as vice president. In sight there is the goal of automating 5 important provinces by 2017: Azuay, Guayas, Manabí, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and Pichincha. Furthermore, the goal of an automation system able to cover a 100% of the electorate by 2021 does not look too ambitious, in light of the significant lengths advanced in 2014. As a systems engineer, and given the leading role he had in the automation process held during the last elections, Mr. Salazar definitely is well endowed to set this project in motion.

Ecuador looks to the future, hand in hand with electoral technology


Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used machines provided by Smartmatic. Photo: La República

Ecuador is committed to automating its electoral system by 2017. The goal looks attainable more than two years away from the deadline, as the country has been preparing to migrate from manual to electronic voting, keeping in mind all the steps that guarantee the successful adoption of electoral technology.

Last February, the country experienced a binding pilot test that cleared all doubts about the efficacy of vote automation. The provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas tested two kinds of electoral technology, which not only enabled nearly one million Ecuadorians to vote securely—according to the electoral body— but also helped to determine the financial and logistic requirements of extending the use of technology throughout the nation.

For example, in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the National Electoral Council (CNE) certified the ease of use of the devices provided by Smartmatic, in which voters’ interaction with the touchscreen machines was simple and quick. The electoral body highlighted the optimal performance in the capture, counting, totaling, and transmission of votes, which made it possible to publish results with 99% of the tally just one hour after the polling stations closed. Besides, audits were performed after the election, which matched the automated results with manual counts of vote receipts emitted by the machines.

In Azuay, where machines provided by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) were used, the process was also positive in spite of the suspension of elections at the Ponce Enríquez district. Rather than e-voting, this system is based on electronic tallying, since the machines do not register votes but a chip on each ballot stores each vote in order to be counted later. The obstacles faced by this mode were eventually overcome and the process continued normally, which led the authorities to highlight the strength of the technology to solve contingencies.

After this experience, the National Electoral Council announced that it would follow the recommendations from the Electoral Mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE), inviting the country to carry out a compared evaluation of the automated practices employed and define the technological solution to be applied, considering the recommended criteria regarding blank votes, single screens, voting booth upgrades, among others.

Trust in every electoral system is based on it being capable of registering votes faithfully, preserving their secrecy—both in terms of selected options and voter identity—, arrive at tally results that respect the voters’ selections, guarantee that results cannot be altered, enable the auditability of the processes, and make the voting method easy for everyone. Compliance with these demands makes an electoral process efficient and reliable, and that is Ecuador’s bet for the future.

After drills, e-voting in Ecuador is ready to go


Smartmatic’s machines have already arrived in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Photo: El Comercio.

During the past few weeks, Ecuador has carried out an intense agenda of tests and audits to shield the execution of the first automated binding elections in the country. On February 23, during the provincial elections, three electoral technologies will be used in three districts. In order to guarantee that the systems, equipment and logistics respond to the complexity and demands of the event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has decided to simulate each stage of the process.

Four drills took place in the municipalities of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, where the final automated events will also be held. Various tests were conducted to verify each process and debug the systems.

The CNE Vice President, Paúl Salazar, pointed out that the need to leverage the Integrated Electoral Administration System (SIAE), the pilot plans for e-voting in Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and the installation of the rapid count program will shape a 100% Ecuadorian IT system in 2017 in which these technological elements will be guarantee the transparency of each process.

In Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas —with 300,000 registered voters— machines and software provided by Smartmatic will be used. The drill involved the deployment of 61 precincts with 113 voting machines, which made it possible to put logistics (equipment installation and personnel training) to the test, while measuring at the same time the performance of the touchscreen devices, which capture, save, tally, aggregate, and transmit results. Besides, these machines print a voting receipt for each electoral operation performed, which enables on-site audits (right at the end of the event) or afterwards in order to compare manual scrutiny with the automated one.

In Azuay (600 voters), electronic ballots designed by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) will be employed. For the development of this exercise, 100 electoral precincts and 200 voting machines were set up. These devices have smart ballots, which must be inserted in the machines in order to register each vote. Votes are stored within a chip contained in the ballot, so each ballot must go through the machines after the election for scrutiny.

Together with the optimization of the processes, the drills helped to generate findings such as the average time citizens spend voting, which according to CNE is between 2 and 3 minutes. Moreover, the test revealed that the electoral body will have the possibility to emit results two hours after closing the polls.

Ecuador’s technical tests left the electoral system and e-voting ready to go for next February 23, when the country will elect 23 provincial prefects, 221 mayors, 1305 councilors, and 4079 spokespeople for the parish offices. CNE has indicated it is ready, and the even Electoral Observation Mission from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) applauded the country’s preparedness. The only thing left now is the massive attendance of voters in order to consolidate the use of technology in the defense and warranty of voting in this country.