Ecuador’s CNE appoints authorities for the next 3 years


Ecuador

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


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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.

A step by step description of the three e-voting systems tested in Ecuador


The machines in Santo Domingo are provided by Smartmatic. Image: CNE Ecuador

Ecuador will go to the polls on February 23rd to select the country’s provincial authorities (23 prefects, 221 mayors, 1,305 council members and 4,079 members of the parish boards). Adding to the traditional importance elections have as means for strengthening democracy, this time around the country’s attention will be focused on the operation of the e-voting technologies that will be tested in Azuay, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Quito’s sector of La Morita.

Knowing how the voting machines operate, the guarantees they offer, and the steps needed to vote is a priority in these days leading up to the election. The National Electoral Council has carried out an intense education campaign for both the voters and electoral technicians, and currently there are active e-voting simulators in Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, regions where this e-voting pilot will be legally binding.

Step by step description of e-voting in Santo Domingo de Tsáchilas

Once the voters identify themselves to the members of the Polling Board, the Smartmatic supplied voting machine will be activated so the voting can take place. A touch screen will display the options, the voters will make their selections, and after verifying them, they will press the “vote” button on the screen; their choices will not only be stored in the machine, but also a printed voting voucher will be produced, which the voters will need to physically deposit in a ballot box.

This system lets the voter be a unique witness to the automatic storage of his/her choices in the machine, as soon as they are made, while also providing a paper trail for verification. Both the physical and digital counts match exactly; this can be proven by checking the automated vote tally against the paper vouchers in the boxes.

The machines to be employed in Santo Domingo de Tsáchilas fully embody the qualities of e-voting: not only do they allow citizens to cast their votes, but they also store, count, tally and transmit electoral results.

Step by step description of e-voting in Amuay

The machines to be used in this location were designed by Magic Software Argentina (MSA). The voting dynamic is as follows: once the voters identify themselves, they will be provided with a ballot containing a chip; this ballot must be inserted into the touch screen voting machine. After the voters make their selections, these are stored in the chip. Then it is time for the voters to insert the ballot in the machine’s reader to verify that the choices stored are in fact the ones intended. In the end, the machine will print a voting voucher that needs to be deposited in a traditional ballot box.

 

The machines that will be tested in Amuay have the limitation of not recording the votes per se. This prevents electors from having the guarantee that their votes will not be tampered with during the count, given that their choices are stored only in the ballot chips. It won’t be until the closing of the polls that these ballots will be counted by poll station workers. It is up to the discretion of those in charge of the election whether to count or not all the votes cast by the people.

Step by step description of e-voting in La Morita

The Russian technology to be experimentally tested in this section of the capital consists of machines activated through security cards with barcodes. A touch screen shows voters their options, and after selections are made (which allow for null or blank votes), the vote is registered and ready to be transmitted.

These machines are not capable of generating a paper trail that could be used in later election audits.