Through e-voting, El Salvador seeks to supress electoral risks


Last March elections yielded significantly delayed results (Photo:

El Salvador, a country in Central America with a long history of violence, has resolved to eradicate the problems caused by its current manual electoral system, by automating its elections.

To that end, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) is inviting the entire nation to join the debate aimed at adopting a technology that allows for the modernization of voting. It is worth noting that last March 1st, the manual voting system in use sparked suspicions during the country’s municipal and legislative elections due to problems and delays that occured. The TSE took almost a day to release provisional results and 19 days to complete the final tally.

TSE magistrate Fernando Argüello Téllez reported that the entity is designing an action plan involving an e-voting pilot for the 2018 elections. Besides, consultations are expected to begin in order to promote the Electoral Code reform and enable e-voting. The entity expects voting to be automated by 2018 in some municipalities, and thus pursue gradual adoption of technology.

“We will get to e-voting,” forecast Téllez when mentioning that El Salvador needs a technology that “enables counting votes” and not only shifting data.

Besides, TSE magistrate Ulises Rivas traced along with Téllez one of the routes the nation could follow in order to jump into e-voting: to request support from Latin American countries with a trajectory in automation, such as Brazil and Venezuela.

Both nations are well known successful examples in the use of electoral technology. Brazil uses machines with a numerical keyboard, which after the election is closed print several minutes with electoral results. One of these minutes is stored on a magnetic disk in order to transmit its information through a secure network. Venezuela, on the other side, has a 100% automated system: from voter authentication through fingerprint scans and voting using touchscreen devices with electronic ballots, which also store, tally, aggregate, and transmit encrypted results, and which also print vote receipts on paper, showing he choice(s) if each vote.

El Salvador is barely beginning its path, but its not at a crossroads but instead facing the certainty of adopting a voting model that sets the country on the forefront of electoral security.

El Salvador and Honduras seek to reverse electoral malpractice

medium (1)In terms of politics, Central America has been a historically convulsive region. Therefore, its electoral systems should play an important role in maintaining political and social stability. This should have been a motive for the implementation for safe and transparent voting models, but for the last two years, problems have arisen in both El Salvador and Honduras that have hindered progress in matters of electoral trust.

El Salvador has had two consecutive elections, the 2014 presidentials and the 2015 legislative and municipal ones. Both of them have suffered technical setbacks and objections about the tallying process. Meanwhile, Honduras also experienced strong suspicions about the results of the 2013 presidential elections. These issues have led both countries to actively seek to overcome their electoral malpractice.

In El Salvador, various political stakeholders have asked the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) to reengineer the country’s voting system, with the addition of studying the viability of implementing e-voting. The country lacks a tallying system that guarantees a timely, seamless vote count.

Honduras is also devoid of a mechanism for counting and aggregating votes while safeguarding people’s intent and guaranteeing a rapid dissemination of clean results. This has created strong tensions. But at least Honduras already has laws that enable electoral automation.

In light of the need to modernize the country’s system, an event sponsored by the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (DIMD), and the National Democracy Institute (NDI) was used to advance the discussions to lead Honduras to the adoption of a new voting model.

Even though both countries have barely begun to debate these issues, it is positive that they can see the options that technology offers for promoting democratic stability in a modern electoral system. Experience has shown that E-voting has the power to settle even the most challenging elections, for instance with high levels of political polarization, complex electoral infrastructures, narrow outcomes, and up to thousands of candidates contesting simultaneously, and still yielding unquestionable results.