E-voting positioned in electoral debate in Argentina


Voting in Argentina is primarily manual (Photo:http://www.infobae.com)

On November 22, Argentina experienced something never seen before: a presidential runoff (the first time this could have happened, it didn’t because Carlos Menem quit his candidacy). However, this was not the only distinctive element of this election. This highlight was fueled by other novelties like the second presidential debate in the democratic history of the country, and the fact that e-voting has been positioned as an issue worth discussing during the campaign.

In fact, due to the poor performance of the manual tallying during the first electoral round—the bulletin was six hours late due to the narrow difference in results—, and the scandalous election in Tucumán, which was declared void due to fraud and then declared valid, automation gained force as an electoral issue. This topic was first addressed by the two candidates to the presidency, and also by the third political force led by Sergio Massa.

The candidate from Cambiemos, Mauricio Macri, stated that he will promote an electoral reform that takes into account the “single ballot, e-voting, or the best technology available in 2017,” while the officialist candidate Daniel Scioli fixed his position in the last weeks of the presidential race. This happened during the election of the Pinamar intendent, when Scioli acknowledged that automated voting “improves transparency in the electoral act.”

On the other hand, “Massism” aims at a transformation of legal administration in several regions throughout the country, and in such reform e-voting plays a prominent role. For example, in Buenos Aires, the movement champions the modification of the voting system to give way to electoral technology. Even the Commission for Political Reform expects to debate the automation project before the end of 2015.

In Argentina, several electoral models coexist, as each province is free to choose and manage its own electoral system. Therefore, multiple ballots (one ballot per political force) are used in the national elections (and most provincial elections), but at the same time, a single ballot is used in Santa Fe.

In Salta and Buenos Aires, the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE) has been implemented. This automates tallying only. Some municipalities in Córdoba tested successfully this year a voting system that automates all of the essential phases of an election.

In light of this diversity, the fact that e-voting is under the spotlight of electoral debate is proof of the importance granted by political forces to the democratic obligation of defending the people’s intent. Until now, Argentina has suffered the many shortcomings and flaws of manual voting, but new leaders are now poised to take on the challenge of modernizing the electoral system of this country.

The Buenos Aires primaries, still unfinished due to doubts

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There were flaws and problems interfering with the results of PASO in Buenos Aires (Photo: http://www.infobae.com)

The Simultaneous Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO) of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which took place last August 9, are still in the eye of the hurricane. Aside from the flaws and setbacks during this event, there was a “preliminary investigation” announced by National Electoral Chamber attorney Jorge Di Lello due to fraud allegations by the candidate of the Frente Renovador party, Felipe Solá.

Although it is still too early to anticipate the eventual outcome of the Solá case inquiry, the issue has further weakened a process that was already ridden with problems. The candidate alleges that he was stolen about 200,000 votes which would have helped him to get 20.70% of the turnout, enough to win the second place instead of a third, which left him out of the race for Governor at the October general elections.

Initial reviews from the media about the internal elections disclosed some situations that cast a shadow of doubt over the results. For example, there were several allegations of delays in the installation of polling stations due to a shortage in ballots, ballot boxes, or absence of authorities. Besides, during the election, there were cases of ballot theft, as well as difficulties to vote, as the ballots were so complex that their size was absurd, up to 1.20m long. This generated discomfort and distrust.

Toward the end of the process, problems related to the slow tallying arose. 15 hours later, there was still no information about the election’s outcome. This brought to light once again the need for Argentina to modernize its voting system and leave behind its archaic methods in favor of technology.

When making a balance of the election, Mauricio Macri, one of the presidential candidates, called for the adoption of an e-voting model that truly safeguards the people’s intent. The country does not have a law regulating automation at the national level. Instead, each province is autonomous in the definition of its electoral system.

Some regions, like Salta and the city of Buenos Aires, currently use automated tallying. Although performance has not been entirely bad, it has shown to be lacking, as key electoral stages are still prone to human error.

One of the great advantages of automation is that it minimizes the capriciousness of those in charge of polling places, minimizing intentional and unintentional flaws, while making voting easier and speeding up processes that are usually cumbersome nowadays. Argentina still has time to follow the path toward the adoption of a 100% automated e-voting system.