Mexico advances in two electoral technology processes


Mexico decide to postpone until 2018 what would have been its first binding federal e-voting experience: online voting for nationals abroad. Although this cancellation generated critics among Mexicans abroad, national and state authorities have not stopped the development of the system and they are getting ready to present technology-based improvements.

Speaking of these matters, the National Electoral Institute (INE) announced that the electronic enrolment of Mexicans abroad will be modernized shortly.

According to the latest reports by the INE, out of the millions of Mexicans residing abroad (10 million estimated in the US alone), barely 300 thousand have requested their voter ID; therefore the INE is aiming to make enrolment easier through technology, to the point where 500 thousand Mexicans register to vote.

The Institute believes that technology will encourage participation, as it has in other sectors.  For instance, the United Kingdom proved in 2015 that voters preferred automated voter registration instead of using the postal service.

The Mexican Electoral Registry project only needs the approval of the General Council to be set in motion. This way, Mexicans residing abroad will be able to choose between enrolment via the technological platform or the postal service. The requirements by the INE to enrol are: a birth certificate, proof of address and a photograph.

Also in Mexico, the burough of Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City is planning an automated voted event for June 25th, where it will be decided whether borough president Ricardo Monreal will stay in his position or be asked to leave.

The Electoral Institute (IEDF) considers the use of electronic voting will reduce costs to the minimum and improve turnout. IEDF Chairman Mario Velázquez explained that the voting system is already set.

It is an Internet voting model which was already used in the participative budget process of 2017. The organism explains that users must request a password in advance to log into the voting platform, or go to designated polling stations with voting machines.

This way, while the financial viability of e-voting for Mexicans abroad is being considered, Mexico continues working in the automation of some phases of the voting process (e.g. voter registration), also allowing for the use of technology in different regions. Each one of these actions is important for the full automation of their electoral system.

Accuracy and speed: two pending tasks in Mexico’s elections


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Mexico had to recount votes from 60% of the polling stations during the federal elections.

Last June 7th, Mexicans headed to the polling stations for its Midterm elections. And after polls closed, instead of releasing results, the National Electoral Institute (INE) had to announce the biggest vote recount in Mexico’s history— 60% of the installed polling stations.

Unfortunately, in some states, the Preliminary Electoral Result Program (PREP) suffered considerable delays due to the processes coordinated by the newly formed body INE. Poorly trained polling station officers delayed the delivery of count reports at the data centers.

The internal report of the recounts showed that in 22,963 out of the 88,444 polling stations recounted, the difference between first and second place was less than the number of void votes. Besides, vote tallies had to be verified in 48,057 cases because the number of votes did not match the number of voters, while 9,929 of the polling stations simply did not have a count report.

Such discrepancies constitute a clear evidence of the poor training operators received and also point at manual voting as a problem in itself. Manual voting brings great disadvantages both for voters and for those who count votes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the transportation of thousands of voting minutes to hundreds of results consolidation and processing centers can turn into a cumbersome task. The logistic challenges INE faced, which affected the Preliminary Result Program—just another name for an unofficial vote count carried out and disclosed on election day—caused confusion and distrust among the citizens.

This situation forced the authorities to delay the announcement the official tally another seven days. It was only on June 14 when the definitive electoral results were finally delivered.

There is no doubt that Mexico is in the middle of a crossroad: to remain using an obsolete manual voting system which is proving disastrous or to give more protagonism to electoral technology. The adoption of an automated model of tallying or voting would not only eschew double counting and eliminate all these problems (as aggregation would be fast and precise), but it would eliminate the need to conduct preliminary results. Moreover, it would also enable authorities to announce official results only hours after closing the election.

Mexico will test out locally designed e-voting system


mexicoMexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) has set the goal of automating the country’s electoral system by 2018. Three years away from the deadline, the organization is still facing various obstacles. However, in light of the June 7 federal elections, the electoral agency will present an e-voting model designed and built in the country.

The pilot test that will be deployed in District 02 of Chihuahua, District 03 of Aguascalientes, and District 04 of Hidalgo seeks to become the breaking point enabling Mexico to close the technological-electoral gap where it lags behind other Latin American countries.

According to the INE, the organization’s system was built and produced by the Research and Advanced Studies Institute (Cinvestav) from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), following “international canons and protocols.”

Information presented thus far by INE shows that Mexico copied some of the world’s best practices in e-voting. One example of this is the fact that the voting machines have the capacity to print vote receipts on paper, an electoral guarantee pioneered in Venezuela. It was also revealed that the devices have a screen where voters will mark their selection, and at the end of the day the machines will print minutes with the results, which will be immediately transmitted to a data center.

The experience was designed so that voters can interact with 1,500 machines distributed across three districts in the three states chosen for the test after the voting in the federal elections (for 1,996 posts, including local and national deputies, mayors, and heads of delegation). Thus, they can verify the simplicity of the process, as well as the guarantees it offers.

INE’s Statistics and Electoral Documentation Director, Gerardo Martínez, pointed out that aside from the technical benefits e-voting offers, Mexico wants to leverage technology, as the electoral agency estimates that with the jump from paper votes to electronic ones, the cost of each vote would go from 56 cents (0.036 dollars) to 3 cents (0.0019 dollars).

The electoral agency’s bet is that after the e-voting test run, both voters and political actors will act as replicators of the benefits of automation, so that the authorities promote the adoption of technology. This would require a legal reform enabling the use of voting machines, as well as the budget approval for the production of the equipment and the compliance with vital stages such as the information campaign, technician and voter training, and drills, among others.