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.

Automated voting for immigrants is the next bet


Immigrant vote tends to be controversial in many countries, not only because the laws of several nations curtail the exercise of this political right, but also because the logistic required to make voting available to foreign nationals often hinders the process.

To turn this around, Mexico, Spain and Portugal are working for solutions. In these three regions electronic voting is being considered as a way to overcome limitations that exclude those who live their lives outside their country of origin, but who are not indifferent to the land they were born in.

In the Mexican case, a nation whose unofficial data shows 10 million of its nationals residing in the US alone, the National Electoral Institute (INE) recently announced the implementation of online voting for Mexican citizens residing abroad for the 2018 presidential elections. This was first planned for 2017, but it was delayed until next year.

According to the Institute, they hope to “within the legal framework, and responsibly, timely and fully present a strengthened remote voting model for the 2017-2018 electoral process, making the best efforts to simplify procedures and requirements as to make the model swifter, more efficient and simpler, so that our fellow Mexicans who have emigrated can have political participation”.

Mexico’s statement echoes the recurring complains by voters abroad, namely that they usually face difficulties to register and validate their condition as voters, primarily due to the condition set by some nations of having legal residency, or the fear to disclose their migratory status.

In addition, there are technical and logistic challenges that hinder the exercise of democracy.  For instance, the reception of the wrong electoral materials at the diplomatic missions, and the location of polling stations, which tend to be set in consulate or embassies far away from where many citizens live.

To sort these problems out, Portugal planned to implement an e-voting model aimed specifically at this sector of the population. This nation claims that during their most recent elections, the October 2015 legislative elections, only 11.68% of the 242,852 voters residing outside its territory went to the polls.

The Lusitanic country considers it urgent to “palliate a problem that diminishes the capacity of electoral participation for our citizens abroad”, through the introduction of postal or Internet enrolment, and the use of e-voting as an alternative to in-person or mail voting.

Finally Spain, and particularly Catalans, have complained about the lack of legislation that regulates political participation for immigrants, as well as the absence of a technological mechanism to fix the difficulties of organizing elections outside the national territory.

While these three nations advance in their internal discussions, they could consider the e-voting experiences of immigrants in different countries for their debate. There are the cases of Switzerland and The Philippines, where different automation models guarantee electoral egality among their own citizens residing either at home or abroad

Swiss citizens who live abroad can also vote online. This method contemplates the voters receiving their electoral materials via post, together with a six-digit password, so they can log into a designated website and gain access to the ballot.

On the other hand, the Commission on Elections of the Philippines (Comelec) extended the e-voting capabilities it successfully applied for the first time in 2010 to seven of the countries that host Filipino citizens, namely China (Hong Kong), Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah) and Kuwait.

Mexico city debuts Internet voting initiative


Mexico, a country that has been trying for years to overhaul  its electoral system, has finally taken a major step forward by formalizing one of the first remote voting projects in Latin America.

Although the initiative does not yet cover elections contemplated in the constitution and is yet limited to the election of community-based Citizen committees and People’s Councils,  it is a process backed by authorities and approved by the Federal District Electoral Institute (IEDF).

The pilot involves the use of an Internet voting mechanism, a simpler and more rudimentary version of the system used in countries like Switzerland and other democracies which have become more savvy in the use of internet technology for elections. Nevertheless, the initiative is important in that it introduces the use of electoral technology in the Mexican capital.

The voting mode to be used between August 31st and September 1st (traditional voting takes place on September 4th) covers two options: remote voting or in-situ voting at polling stations. For the former, a computer, tablet or personal cellphone can be used, whereas for the latter the voter will have to travel to strategic points in Mexico City to vote using equipment owned by the Institute.

According to the characteristics of the system made public by the IEDF, the residents of the capital who wish to vote remotely must pre-register on the Institutes’s website, in order to get an Internet voting key mandatory to activate the system.

The pre-registration password will be just one of the security mechanisms: when voting, citizens must enter a set of requested data (their user key, the OCR number in their voting credential and the Internet key), after which they will receive a message on their cellphones with a single use code (token) required by the system, and which is only valid for a brief period of time.  Only then will the screen show the voting options.

Councilwoman Olga González stated that the double authentication process for voters “will guarantee the one voter, one opinion, one vote principle”, a fundamental characteristic of every voting system that claims to be safe and transparent.

The scope may be modest, yet obervers hope that it will demonstrate to voters the immense gulf that separates the manual and automated elections and provide the impetus for the country to finally modernize its elections.