Problems with tallying cast shadows over elections in Argentina and Haiti

elecciones-argentinaLast October 25, three elections took place in Latin America. Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti held electoral events, but results were known in only one of them.

While there will be a runoff in Argentina, and in Haiti authorities announced that definite results will be disclosed starting November the 4th, Guatemala was the only country that presented the winner of the election. Let’s take a closer look at each election:

1.- Argentina
The South American country had a high voter turnout—79% of the registry—, but the good news were followed by a  six-hour delay in the presentation of the first official result bulletin.

The election results were very close—there was a 2.5% difference between the first and second candidates—, which caused the National Electoral Chamber to delay the broadcast of the final vote count. This sparked complaints and suspicion all around the country, and also showed how precarious the Argentine manual voting model is.

The country will have its first runoff ever next November 22. The last one did not take place because one of the candidates abandoned the race. However, the slow delivery of results entailed an institutional and political risk that could have been costly, as electoral uncertaintly is one of the most dangerous experiences for democracy. This was made evident by the violent events that took place in Tucumán, Argentina, after the elections of last August.

If the margin is close during the runoff, Argentina will face a challenge that implies the need to start working in the renewal of its electoral system.

2.- Guatemala
Guatemala elected its new president: Jimmy Morales. Although something similar to what Argentina experienced happened here, when a “dead heat” made it impossible to announce results for days, the ample difference between both candidates and a 55% voter turnout made the work of the High Electoral Court (TSE) much easier.

The fact that Guatemala was safe by sheer luck speaks volumes about the poor condition of its electoral system. Democracy is very young in this country, so it is vital to aim toward the development of the electoral platform in order to avoid conflict, which this time was averted, perhaps by sheer luck too.

3.- Haiti
Out of the three countries that held presidential elections, Haiti had the most dramatic results. At the end of the election, the president of the Provisional Electoral Commission of Haiti (CEP), Pierre Louis Opont, announced that it would take ten days (starting November 4) to offer preliminary tally results.

The nation is facing strong setbacks due to its technologic and logistic constraints, aside from its weak institutionality. Although it has received financial and technical aid to run this election, its problems with the voter registry and the tallying phase reveal an urgent need to reform its electoral system.

The international community has the mission of supporting Haitians, but a stronger effort is needed in order to offer the country a voting method that makes it possible to rescue electoral certainty. On the first round, only 18% of those registered (that is, only 990,000 out of a full voting population of 5.5 million citizens) went to the polls. No better turnout is expected from the second round, either.


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.

2015, a year with a broad electoral scope

electoral process

At least 26 countries will go to the polls during 2015.

26 countries will experience electoral processes during 2015. These will be predominantly for the renovation of legislative bodies, as 19 territories will be electing parliament representatives, while eight nations will vote for presidents and two will carry out referenda.

The most intense electoral environment will focus on Europe, where 10 countries will hold elections using manual voting. Switzerland -a pioneer in different e-voting models, will hold elections where it will test out on-site automated suffrage as well as online voting. This way, suffrage will be possible not only for citizens within the national territory, but also for those living abroad.

The rest of European countries holding elections will continue entrenched in traditional suffrage. However, after approving a law that enables system automation in 2006, Finland is evaluating electoral technology used around the world in order to adopt the one they deem most adequate. The country will hold Parliament elections in April.

On the other hand, Africa and the Americas will hold 6 elections this year. Several nations in the Americas will conduct pilot tests in order to modernize their suffrage. Mexico, for instance, will implement an e-voting pilot test facing its Congress elections in June. Meanwhile, Argentina will reconfirm its allegiance to automated tallying.

Argentinians will have a very active electoral calendar, which will kick off on February 8th with primary elections in some regions and might end in November in case there is a runoff for the October presidentials. A few areas of this nation already have laws establishing the automation of processes, and some districts began to use it in 2011. However, there is no nationwide government plan to enable the adoption of technology across the nation. In spite of this, several provinces will test out the difference between automation and manual voting. Electronic tallying will make a huge difference in the way votes are tallied and aggregated in the country.

While Guatemala will hold general elections in September, albeit showing no signs of advancement to overcome the flaws of manual voting (there was an automated suffrage pilot test in 2002, but since then the implementation of technology has stagnated); Canada expects six of its provinces to essay e-voting, as approved in 2011. These are Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

In light of this report, 2015 is guaranteed to be a year of electoral challenges for many nations. This will also represent an opportunity to confirm, once again, that electoral automation technology is undoubtedly the most beneficial tool to safeguard the people’s intent.