Elections in Haiti, 3 years late


Haitians renewed their Parliament last August 9th (Photo: almomento.net)

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, will hold elections next August 9 -3 years after they were supposed to occur- to renew 138 Parliament posts (20 senators and 118 deputies) amid a deep political crisis that has already forced former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to resign. This delay has exacerbated the overall instability by causing major social frictions and further complicating an already compromised economic situation.

To help solve the current situation, various countries and multilateral bodies are injecting resources and lending technical support—as they have been doing since 2010, when a major earthquake devastated the country—. However, days away from the event, the aid seems insufficient.

In 2011, when the last election took place, Haitians had to wait for weeks to find out results. Although several countries had helped by providing financial support, the international community paid little effort to ensure the election was properly managed. Four years later, the situation remains more or less the same.

For example, while the Organization of American States (OAS) announced that it would send an observation mission, countries like Brazil, Canada, Norway, and the US approved funding a significant portion of the election costs ($70 million). Only Venezuela manifested that it would provide resources to streamline Haiti’s National Electoral Roll.

Given Haiti’s current situation, any form of aid is indeed necessary. Yet, there are pending technical issues that could compromise the success of the election which need to be resolved. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has explained that the parliamentary elections will be “the largest voting exercise in the history of the country,” as they imply enabling nearly 13,500 constituencies, 1,600 polling places, and printing 60 million ballots. Both the election and tally will be 100% manual. Besides, it will require the participation of more than 41,000 temporary workers to cover all the stages.

With this election, Haiti fulfills one of its pending appointments. The next task in its to-do list is the modernization of its electoral system. Perhaps by automating voting, efficiency and transparency will improve, and the nation will be likely to reduce its current outrageous cost of $14 per voter (there are currently around 5 million registered voters in the country).


After testing, Costa Rica decided to bet on e-voting


Photo: La República

Last April 6th, when Costa Ricans voted—on second round—to elect their new president, they not only preserved their democratic system by attending the polling stations, but also supported the transformation process of their electoral system by massively testing the e-voting model that the nation expects to implement in 2016.

The event, organized by the High Electoral Court (TSE), allowed voters from various regions of the country to interact, after they had voted manually for their president, with the machines that would modernize their electoral system.

The e-voting system tested by Costa Rica shows similarities to that employed in other countries in the region, such as the US and Venezuela, as it’s based on the use of touchscreen machines where each voter can type his or her preferred options and then the device prints a vote receipt in order for the voter to verify that his or her selection was properly registered. This also ensures that there is a physical backup for each selection.

The software design began to be developed in 2011. However, the purchase of the equipments was only made effective between August and September 2013. It was only this year that testing and preparation of the system for the 2016 municipal elections began. This modernization program is being carried by the Engineering Department of the TSE’s Technological Strategy Directorate, and so far it has 50 electronic devices.

The experience was commended and supported by the Organization of American States (OAS). Josefina Vázquez Mota (from Mexico), Chief of the delegation, highlighted that the organization “saluted this effort with much satisfaction, as the conditions for its use were very favorable. Besides, the mechanism was observed to be very efficient and fast.”

The experience sets Costa Rica on the path to automate voting, and joining the elite of nations with a modern, safe, and transparent suffrage. TSE’s plans include continuing the tests and taking advantage of student elections at professional schools and universities to keep showing and improving the electronic voting system the whole country is betting on for the municipal elections that will take place in two years.