A stumbling block threatens the institutionalism of Ecuador’s CNE

CNEEcuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) is experiencing a credibility crisis after its newly-appointed board was practically forced to quit thanks to the unexpected resignation of one of its counselors due to her having a political affiliation.

The CNE had a Board of Directors—presided by Paul Salazar—for eight days. Salazar set forth the need to undertake an all-encompassing reform of the Democracy Code. However, the newly-incorporated counselor Gloria Toapanta suddenly quit, seemingly as part of a political move regarding her partisanship, as she is a militant of the Alianza País party. This restrains her from keeping her post.

Although the desertion of an advisory post should not have altered the Board’s composition, both Salazar and vice president Mauricio Tayupanta resolved to put the rest of the posts at the disposal of the CNE members, until the vacancy left by Mrs. Toapanda was filled. The situation, far from being solved transparently, abiding by the norms, became a process that already has raised legal procedures against it, as new authorities were appointed at the same time as the post was being filled in a suspicious manner.

The reviews by the media shows that three people were considered apt to fill the vacancy: Solanda Goyes and Mónica Rodríguez, substitutes designated in last December’s contest carried out by the Citizen Participation Council, where Toapanda won. Besides, Ana Marcela Paredes, first substitute from the 2011 process, also requested her incorporation.

According to Article 20 of the Democracy Code (CD), at the resignation of one of the main advisors, his or her post will be filled by the subsitute with the highest score at the contest where he or she was elected. In this case, the contest that applies is the one carried out in 2014.

Solanda Goyes, who obtained 88 points in last year’s contest, claimed to be the first substitute. However, CNE counselors voted for Paredes, who was voted substitute in 2011 with 77.75 points. The affected candidate will file for protection and will take action against the appointment.

Thus, Paredes’s entry gave way to the appointment of Juan Pablo Pozo and Nubia Villacís, who were appointed president and vice president of the CNE, respectively. After the issue was seemingly settled, different people, among them Fausto Camacho, former CNE member, criticized several of the State’s institutions for joining together to contravene the law. Camacho annouced that he will also take legal action.

Although Pozo defended himself from the criticism arguing that CNE “is not an allocation council,” the entity is now facing an institutional crisis that is jeopardizing not only the body’s future, but also the country’s electoral guarantees, as Ecuador has been immersed in a process of suffrage modernization, in which the technology it will use to automate voting has been under evaluation.

CNE’s institutional frailty might become an obstacle not only for the country’s electoral development, but for the preservation of suffrage. It is now the turn of legal instances to activate the mechanisms that enable the solution of what clearly looks like a political stumbling block.

Ecuador chose e-voting

Ecuador will test out four models of e-voting, one of them being a system that uses touchscreen machines.

ImageE-voting will become a reality for Ecuador. The National Electoral Council (CNE) approved the completion of a pilot test on February 14, during the regional elections, in order to measure the operative and technical effectiveness of the automated voting system, and at the same time to determine the financial and logistic requirements needed to extend the use of electoral technology to the whole nation.

The stipulated plan contemplates that next week CNE will present the rough draft of the rules of procedure for automated voting, and that it will decide the e-voting model that Azuay (599,000 voters), the chosen province to try automation for the first time, will use from among four companies.

The electoral organ is analyzing the propositions presented by Smartmatic, a London-based transnational; MSA (Magic Software), from Argentina; Panama’s Voting Solutions, and Orbiscorp, from Spain.

According to information offered by Juan Pablo Pozo, CNE advisor, among the alternatives offered by these four companies, it is possible to find e-voting models that include “suffrage through a touchscreen that allows to choose candidates, a physical electronic ballot with a chip that registers each voter’s selection, a voting system with touchscreen and optical pencil that registers each vote through coordinates established in the ballot.”

They hope to achieve certain premises, such as having machines capable of attending 350 voters per device at most with a $7 million budget, and that the technology used “is convenient for the Ecuadorian system and appropriate for the country’s reality.” Ecuador’s upcoming decision is as important as the step the country took towards e-voting. Choosing the most suitable technology for its idiosyncrasy, one that is capable of covering its technical needs, is vital for the success of a plan that seeks to leave behind a 100% manual electoral system that can no longer maintain its fairness. Besides, the chosen system must guarantee that each citizen’s vote is faithfully tallied.

CNE stated that the country is committed to the development of its electoral system and the automation of elections within four years. The available technology and decision-making process signal that another Latin American nation is ready to take a step forward in the modernization of suffrage.