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.

The Buenos Aires primaries, still unfinished due to doubts


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There were flaws and problems interfering with the results of PASO in Buenos Aires (Photo: http://www.infobae.com)

The Simultaneous Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO) of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which took place last August 9, are still in the eye of the hurricane. Aside from the flaws and setbacks during this event, there was a “preliminary investigation” announced by National Electoral Chamber attorney Jorge Di Lello due to fraud allegations by the candidate of the Frente Renovador party, Felipe Solá.

Although it is still too early to anticipate the eventual outcome of the Solá case inquiry, the issue has further weakened a process that was already ridden with problems. The candidate alleges that he was stolen about 200,000 votes which would have helped him to get 20.70% of the turnout, enough to win the second place instead of a third, which left him out of the race for Governor at the October general elections.

Initial reviews from the media about the internal elections disclosed some situations that cast a shadow of doubt over the results. For example, there were several allegations of delays in the installation of polling stations due to a shortage in ballots, ballot boxes, or absence of authorities. Besides, during the election, there were cases of ballot theft, as well as difficulties to vote, as the ballots were so complex that their size was absurd, up to 1.20m long. This generated discomfort and distrust.

Toward the end of the process, problems related to the slow tallying arose. 15 hours later, there was still no information about the election’s outcome. This brought to light once again the need for Argentina to modernize its voting system and leave behind its archaic methods in favor of technology.

When making a balance of the election, Mauricio Macri, one of the presidential candidates, called for the adoption of an e-voting model that truly safeguards the people’s intent. The country does not have a law regulating automation at the national level. Instead, each province is autonomous in the definition of its electoral system.

Some regions, like Salta and the city of Buenos Aires, currently use automated tallying. Although performance has not been entirely bad, it has shown to be lacking, as key electoral stages are still prone to human error.

One of the great advantages of automation is that it minimizes the capriciousness of those in charge of polling places, minimizing intentional and unintentional flaws, while making voting easier and speeding up processes that are usually cumbersome nowadays. Argentina still has time to follow the path toward the adoption of a 100% automated e-voting system.