E-vote for citizens abroad gains traction in Spain


Voting for expatriates tends to be a controversial issue in many countries, not only because the laws of several nations curtail the exercise of this political right, but also because the logistic required to let foreign nationals vote often hinders the process.

To turn this around, Spain is looking for solutions, and e-voting is considered as one of the tools to surpass the limitations faced by expatriates.

Early this year, Catalonians complained about the lack of legislation regulating political participation for expatriates, and about the absence of a technological mechanism to solve the difficulties of organizing elections outside the national territory.

More recently, the Central Electoral Board has spoken about the need to rescue the political rights of Spaniards residing abroad by means of e-voting.

The president of the board, Carlos Granados, has proposed the adoption of an automated model to solve the difficulties Spaniards who reside abroad face in order to vote. This was mentioned to the commission in charge of studying voting reform.

For Granados, although the so called voto rogado – i.e. ”pleaded vote”, where the voter must previously communicate their will to vote to an institution that may grant or refuse their request – is indeed constitutional, its application has meant delays and procedures which have reduced turnout. Granados states that they are looking for legal changes that allow the use of electoral technology as an alternative to conventional voting mechanisms like postal voting or voting in consulates, which should be kept nonetheless, but with “improvements”.

These statements join the recurrent claims from voters abroad, who usually face technical and logistical hurdles that curtail their democratic rights.  Some of these include the reception of wrong electoral materials at the diplomatic missions or the remote location of polling centres, usually consulates or embassies.  They also face difficulties to register and validate their condition as voters, primarily due to the request by some nations to have legal residency, or the fear of disclosing their migratory status.

Facing this reality, Spain finds itself in a good position to open the doors to change.  With it, they would make the political participation of all their citizens more viable, but this would also pave the road to select the safest and most effective voting model for all the republic.

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Venezuelan electoral credibility in freefall after Constituent Assembly


The election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela on July 30th drastically broke the electoral dynamic that had been building in the country since 2004, when the nation automated their voting.

From the way the election of a second ANC (the first one took place in 1999), to the moment in which results were presented, the election was questioned by experts and politicians both inside the country and abroad.

For some, the convocation to vote itself was illegal, since it was done directly by President Nicolás Maduro, without a referendum to consult the nation on whether they wanted a new constitution.

Furthermore, the National Electoral Council approved an electoral schedule that prevented many of the audits that had taken place in every election since 2004.  By skipping two thirds of the battery of 21 audits that are usually conducted, the credibility of the vote was seriously affected.  The Venezuelan National Observatory (OEV) kept a record of these shortcomings in a report, which states 14 audits were skipped, and 70 to a 100 actions that usually precede any election were omitted as well.

Adding to this, the problems were made worse by the decision of the Venezuelan opposition to abstain from participating, since this took away one of the vital aspects needed to guarantee the transparency of the process: having witnesses from the opposing side making sure rules and procedures are respected.

The grave concerns over the way the CNE decided to carry out the voting reached a boiling point 72 hours after the event, when Smartmatic, the company that had supplied Venezuela with voting technology for the past 14 years,   denounced that according to their estimates, “the difference between the numbers announced and those in the system [was] of at least a million voters”.

According to the multinational, while CNE President Tibisay Lucena stated 8,08 million people had voted the company data projected a different number, and they suggested audits to validate the information.

To date, the CNE has not responded to this accusation effectively, and chose to hide behind political rhetoric when the situation called for technical arguments.  Mistrust gained ground: it has been several weeks after the vote and the organism has not yet published electoral results by polling station, as it had done traditionally since 2004, thus withholding the knowledge of how all the voting circuits polled, and preventing confirmation of the results.

The CNE’s decision to hide the electoral data denies any audit of the vote; the tally cannot be corroborated by matching printed election returns with the polling station results.

So not only are there accusations of an alleged tampering of the final results offered by the National Electoral Council (CNE), but we can add that more than 30 days the vote, no official detailed results have been made public.

The delicate nature of the situation has been discussed by national and international specialists. Former Carter Center representative, Jennifer McCoy, anticipates that what happened will “strongly influence the trust of Venezuelans when it comes to participating in future elections”.

It is in the hands of the authorities to restore proper lawful procedures, and in the hands of political actors to press so that Venezuelans can recover their voting system, which took years of work and investments.

E-voting: beyond traditional elections


Hoy día, más de un tercio de los votantes del mundo votan electrónicamente por sus autoridades gubernamentales. Sin embargo, este número está en franco aumento, ya que la tecnología electoral está siendo aprovechada por innumerables organizaciones civiles y políticaspara elegir autoridades, aprobar o rechazar iniciativas, dar el visto bueno o detener propuestas comunitarias, sancionar u objetar proyectos de Ley, así como otras múltiples actividades.

En varios parlamentos alrededor del mundo se están implementando soluciones tecnológicas para facilitar la toma de decisiones. En ocasiones, la tecnología desplegada cumple hasta un doble o triple propósito. Tal es el caso del Legislativo de Guanajuato, donde además de la votación electrónica -que es vista en dos pantallas en tiempo real y se efectúa desde las curules- también incluye el orden del día. En otros modelos como el uruguayo, también se cuenta la asistencia de los diputados con un software que registra votación, en aras de “hacer más transparente la gestión del Poder Legislativo y darle más herramientas a la sociedad para el control y el contacto con los diputados”.

Las asociaciones civiles, alcaldías y otras instancias de organización ciudadana también han acudido al voto electrónico para ofrecer a sus electores la oportunidad de interactuar con un sistema de votación capaz de ajustarse a las necesidades de cualquier grupo electoral, y al mismo tiempo ofrecer garantías que pasan por rapidez, seguridad, transparencia y auditabilidad.

De estos últimos ejemplos, el Instituto Electoral del Distrito Federal en México, aplicó el voto por internet para elegir los Comités Ciudadanos y Consejos de los Pueblos –instancias creadas para estimular la participación de la población en la solución de los problemas vecinales. Los residentes de la capital que usaron el sufragio remoto debieron realizar un pre-registro en la web del organismo, de manera de recibir una clave de voto por Internet indispensable para activar el sistema.

En la región, países como Argentina, Perú, República DominicanaEcuador,Bolivia yEspaña, han experimentado con elecciones automatizadas en organizaciones estudiantiles, políticas o sociales, repitiendo los resultados exitosos mostrados en comicios electrónicos constitucionales.

En estos procesos suele usarse el modelo de voto electrónico más demandado en la actualidad, el Registro Electrónico Directo (DRE, por su sigla en inglés), que consiste en el empleo de máquinas con pantalla táctil que permiten ejercer el sufragio, almacenar los votos, totalizarlos y transmitirlos a un centro de cómputo, además de imprimir un  comprobante físicos de las selecciones que hagan los votantes. Una segunda alternativa es el sufragio remoto o por internet, el cual con una plataforma segura provista para computadoras, tabletas, e incluso teléfonos, habilita el voto a un determinado grupo de ciudadanos.

Los ejemplos expuestos, son apenas algunas de las áreas donde la tecnología electoral despunta para brindar, cada vez más, software y hardware especializado para todas las etapas de un proceso de votación. Estos y otros mecanismos,  han ayudado a derribar barreras, y permitir que la versatilidad sea una aliada en la expansión del voto electrónico.

Los gremios profesionales y los partidos políticos, están entre las instancias que más usan algún tipo de tecnología para renovar directivas y nóminas. En Venezuela, las organizaciones partidistas no solo han realizado elecciones internas usando el voto electrónico 100% automatizado del que dispone el país, sino que además cumplen el proceso de renovación de su militancia con equipos de identificación biométrica, al tiempo que el proceso de reparo de firmas de seguidores –reclamos- se cumple desde la página web del organismo electoral.