Recap of 2016 electoral events


Foto: tolteca-guillermomarin.blogspot.com

2016 was a banner year for elections with over 30 countries in all continents carrying out a total of 133 elections.  Total voter turnout amounted to some 757.6 million people.

In the Americas, 2016 was a particularly busy year with two most populated countries (Brazil and the USA) going to the polls.

The contrast between manual and electronic elections was made more evident as  e-voting pioneers Brazil and the USA underscored the immense benefits of technology while countries like Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ecuador held out, stubbornly refusing to modernize and thereby, as in the case of DR, imperiling its very democracy.

Let us take a more detailed look at events.

United States

US voters elected their new leaders on November 8.  Despite all the noise about the possibility of hackers tampering with the vote, the elections went smoothly.

The unabated proliferation of fake news took everyone by surprise and yet the voting itself experienced no problems.  In the state of Wisconsin, where a recount took place, it was proved that when technology is properly implemented, the risks of the people’s will being tampered with are minimal, if not null.

Brazil

In October, Brazil deployed its huge e-voting platform boasting of some 450k voting machines. These were used for municipal elections where over 5,500 offices were to be elected.

Despite the enormous political turmoil the country is experiencing, the country took a step forward in its political recovery with these elections.

Peru

The political tension which arose from the close results of the Peruvian presidential elections made the final push for automation an imperative.

The July 5th polls saw a neck and neck contest between the top contenders and revealed how ill-prepared the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) was in dealing  with a highly polarized nation. Although the country already has legislation to modernize voting, and has even designed an electronic vote model that has been under testing for years, the electoral authorities have been dragging its feet in rolling out e-voting.

Dominican Republic

2016 proved to be a rocky year for the DR. Its Central Electoral Board hired Spanish-based Indra Sistemas to provide biometric identification and automated voting technology for the May 15 polls.

Unfortunately, technical and operational errors plagued the implementation of both the fingerprint capture devices and the vote counting machines.  The problem was so bad that the Organization of American States (OAS) was prompted to say  that “the weakest point of the day was the use of voting machines, since they were missing from several polling centres or had connectivity or operation problems.”

The poll body has recommended to review and audit the entire platform.

Haiti

The November 20th Haitian elections showed that the country is still heavily dependent on international aid to mount elections. Although it managed, however barely, to pull off the last general election (whose final results were delayed for weeks, triggering accusations of fraud), the experience made it clear that the country should lose no time modernizing its polls.

Ecuador

After piloting an e-voting system where 100% automated models showed their superiority over those that only automate vote counts, The Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) surprised everyone by abandoning the initiative.  Even more baffling, it declared the two bidding processes scheduled to purchase results transmission technology to be “deserted”.

Instead, the poll body decided to accept a donation from the government of South Korea of 2,000 digitalization and transmission devices of precinct counts. To date, little is known about the systems on which the broadcast of results will be relying. What we do know is that the technology will merely scan and digitize manually filled out precinct counts.

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A stuck Haiti waits for renewed international help


elecciones-haiti

The Haitian elections of November 20th leave us with a lesson: Nothing has changed. The country which has been ravaged by the 2010 quake is still crying out for help, not least of which in the matter of administering elections. International aid, while generous, has not been enough to implement a fair and credible polls.

This is beset with fragile institutions and technological and logistical backwardness.  These have forced the country to delay its elections several times and has been forced to establish provisional governments.  After the last general election (even though preliminary results generated accusations of fraud), many Haitians have felt that the time has come to modernize their elections and save their democracy.

The Herculean task goes beyond just getting economic support from international circles.  It also badly needs help from foreign elections experts and companies whose ideas and solutions would help Haiti get on the road to sustainable democracy.

The latest elections proved to be a total mess with several high-profile candidates preparing legal actions against the results. The situation has deteriorated to the point that observers are clamoring to force the government to leave behind its old and inefficient manual system.

It’s not only for its atrocious lack of transparency, but its very high cost.  According to the Global Survey on the Cost of Registration and Elections, developed by the United Nations Development Programme and the International Foundation of Electoral Systems, the cost per voter is $11 in Haiti, which is nothing short of scandalous in such a poor country.

The international community must be continuing to help Haiti, not just economically, but now, more than ever, ensure that the starts modernizing their elections.

Democracy is, after all, everybody’s business.

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.