Spanish America strives to link technology with popular election


The Spanish autonomous community of Canarias will use tablets for the transmission of results.

The use of technology in the delicate and complex process of organizing elections continues to expand in Spanish America. In addition to the two global benchmarks of the region—Brazil and Venezuela—, there are other countries and regions joining in, such as Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, among others.

Two regions where technology will come closer to voters in the coming months are Mexico and the Spanish autonomous community of the Canary Islands.

In the Canary Islands, the authorities have authorized the use of tablets to speed up the transmission of results. According to the technical specs of the exercise, 1,124 tablets will be used next May 24th at the polling stations where councillors and deputies will be elected, which will speed up the process of vote tally.

This initiative shows that there are procedures that make the benefits of electoral technology evident in terms of optimizing voting processes and enforce guarantees.

In Mexico, where elections will be held in June, the National Electoral Institute (INE) has not made any progress in the development of the automation pilot test that had been promised for this year. However, the state of Chiapas will implement an online voting model that will enable citizens living abroad to participate in the elections. The process is very simple (registration, password generation, and ballot casting), and will set an example for this country, in terms of how technology can become a means of political inclusion.

Parallel to these experiences, Honduras joined the group of nations that seek to generate the legal platform that enables e-voting. A bill is under way in the Parliament for the automation of the 2017 elections. This would allow the region (which has experienced strong political frictions) to find a mechanism that guarantees the electoral will, and along with it, the path to stability.

2015 is already under way and there are several initiatives that put under the spotlight some of the objectives which some countries are pursuing in electoral matters. The good news is that most of the ideas are based on the implementation of e-voting best practices.

Paper vote receipts: Making the vote verifiable


Some DRE machine models have the capacity to print a vote receipt on paper automatically.

In their search for an e-voting model that guarantees accuracy, ease in ballot casting, and verifiability, countries are increasingly opting for e-voting solutions that include printing a vote receipt. This type of receipt is called a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

The main attraction of VVPAT systems is the fact that they enable voters to check in real time that the vote registered, which is the one printed by the machine, matches the choices they just inputted. In addition to enabling this verification, physically printing each vote generates a paper trail that opens the possibility to manually count and compare paper votes totals with the automated counts reflected on the minutes.

Due to the electoral guarantee involving the use of VVPAT, some countries now demand it with e-voting solutions, such as Brazil and India. Although the first of the two is an automation pioneer, its machines do not have printers that replicate digital votes on paper. For this reason, several initiatives have arisen to renew the country’s equipment so as to give way to paper trails for votes.

On the other hand, although India has become a benchmark in the successful implementation of voting machines, it has not yet fulfilled its promise to modernize its system by implementing paper trail printing in order to shield the people’s intent. However, the Supreme Court has already issued a ruling demanding its use.

Venezuela is a pioneer in the use of VVPAT in the region. The mark this practice leaves was reflected on a study conducted by Peru’s National Office for Electoral Processes (Onpe), which shows how the DRE model is progressing firmly compared to other e-voting models. It also shows how paper trails are gaining ground both in countries where electoral automation is used and countries where its implementation is still under study, such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

The way e-voting has found a way to defeat suspicion and fear has been shielding all the phases of the process. VVPAT is a guarantee for expansion.

Puerto Rico bets on automation and Guatemala lags behind

PuertoRicoWhile electoral automation in Puerto Rico already has the backing of a novel legal platform, Guatemala has discarded the option of applying any advances during 2015. The Electoral Law of the Free Associated State, an instrument with which Puerto Rico dictates electoral authorities to start the e-voting implementation process, recently came into force. Meanwhile, Guatemalan authorities have frozen any possible decision regarding this matter.

So far, it is known that Puerto Rico will debut using electoral technology during the November 2016 general elections, giving the country almost two years for the State Electoral Commission (CEE) to bring it to the level of automation leaders such as Brazil and Venezuela. This progress also means pulling away from cases like Guatemala, which discarded any advance for this year’s elections in spite of suffering for decades the flaws inherent in manual voting.

It is worth remembering that in order to have efficient and transparent electoral processes, automation is a vital step, but it is not enough. A series of conditions are essential for processes to take place in such a way that the results are an accurate representation of the voters’ intent, and that the citizens perceive such fact.

First of all, it is essential to hold a transparent and clean tender process that clarifies any doubts about the suitability of the chosen company. Besides, it is necessary to have electoral authorities having technical and managerial skills as well as credibility from the public. It is also very important to hire a company with cutting-edge technology and proven experience in the deployment of automated electoral solutions.

Puerto Rico is facing a great challenge that must be met according to the norm: following the steps that guarantee the technology selection and implementation process, as well as holding pilot tests and an informational campaign so that the e-voting model chosen responds to the country’s technical and logistic demands, as well as to people’s expectations and needs.

Both Puerto Rico and Guatemala are facing different challenges, but electoral bodies must take care of all aspects entailed by automation. Technology can be used to facilitate all electoral activities, but its correct and massive use will make all the difference, as opposed to manual processes.