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


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.

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.