Electoral automation in Peru looking for new ways ahead

La Onpe de Perú diseñó una máquina de votación que ha sido probada en varias ocasiones.Last December, the Peruvian National Council of the Magistracy (CNM) presented the surprising decision to announce that the head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (Onpe), Mariano Cucho, would not be ratified in his position.

According to the CNM arguments, Cucho’s non-fulfilment of some of the objectives planned for his three year tenure (2013-2016) triggered his exit. The delay in the application of e-voting was the item that carried the most weight in the CNM’s evaluation which ruled Cucho should be dismissed.

In the document stating his dismissal, the Council states that “electronic voting was one of (Cucho’s) main proposals, it was a part of his postulation report and a favourable indication for his appointment (…) However, the performance of our evaluation’s subject has only generated mistrust, due to results that have been less than satisfactory”.

Specifically, the document details how during Cucho’s term the number of districts with e-voting went down from 30 to 19, that the financial goals regarding automation were not met, and in the end there were no advances toward the implementation of electoral technology.

Peru has the legislation in place to modernize voting, and has an electronic voting model which has been undergoing testing for years. Despite this, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges that come from implementing an automated voting model.

For instance, instead of moving forward with voting machines and strengthening their security characteristics,  during the first round of voting – April 10th 2016 – the number of automated voting circuits had to be reduced.  Still, the results for these elections and for those in June (second round) were negative.

The reasons for the misuse of e-voting are rooted in the fact that the ONPE, which at first intended to follow best the practices in the region to design their e-voting system, has neglected its improvement.  Meanwhile, the organism has also neglected the election logistics and preparation, a fact that made evident during last year’s voting through the scant or null information that both voters and poll workers had.

The CNM’s decision opens a new possibility for automation in Peru. Currently, there are 13 people vying to become the head of the Onpe, and there are hopes that by late February there will be an appointment.  The delay in applying electoral technology has been costly for Chucho, but it could be the incentive that manages to do away with the indecisiveness regarding voting automation.

Recap of 2016 electoral events

Foto: tolteca-guillermomarin.blogspot.com

2016 was a banner year for elections with over 30 countries in all continents carrying out a total of 133 elections.  Total voter turnout amounted to some 757.6 million people.

In the Americas, 2016 was a particularly busy year with two most populated countries (Brazil and the USA) going to the polls.

The contrast between manual and electronic elections was made more evident as  e-voting pioneers Brazil and the USA underscored the immense benefits of technology while countries like Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ecuador held out, stubbornly refusing to modernize and thereby, as in the case of DR, imperiling its very democracy.

Let us take a more detailed look at events.

United States

US voters elected their new leaders on November 8.  Despite all the noise about the possibility of hackers tampering with the vote, the elections went smoothly.

The unabated proliferation of fake news took everyone by surprise and yet the voting itself experienced no problems.  In the state of Wisconsin, where a recount took place, it was proved that when technology is properly implemented, the risks of the people’s will being tampered with are minimal, if not null.


In October, Brazil deployed its huge e-voting platform boasting of some 450k voting machines. These were used for municipal elections where over 5,500 offices were to be elected.

Despite the enormous political turmoil the country is experiencing, the country took a step forward in its political recovery with these elections.


The political tension which arose from the close results of the Peruvian presidential elections made the final push for automation an imperative.

The July 5th polls saw a neck and neck contest between the top contenders and revealed how ill-prepared the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) was in dealing  with a highly polarized nation. Although the country already has legislation to modernize voting, and has even designed an electronic vote model that has been under testing for years, the electoral authorities have been dragging its feet in rolling out e-voting.

Dominican Republic

2016 proved to be a rocky year for the DR. Its Central Electoral Board hired Spanish-based Indra Sistemas to provide biometric identification and automated voting technology for the May 15 polls.

Unfortunately, technical and operational errors plagued the implementation of both the fingerprint capture devices and the vote counting machines.  The problem was so bad that the Organization of American States (OAS) was prompted to say  that “the weakest point of the day was the use of voting machines, since they were missing from several polling centres or had connectivity or operation problems.”

The poll body has recommended to review and audit the entire platform.


The November 20th Haitian elections showed that the country is still heavily dependent on international aid to mount elections. Although it managed, however barely, to pull off the last general election (whose final results were delayed for weeks, triggering accusations of fraud), the experience made it clear that the country should lose no time modernizing its polls.


After piloting an e-voting system where 100% automated models showed their superiority over those that only automate vote counts, The Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) surprised everyone by abandoning the initiative.  Even more baffling, it declared the two bidding processes scheduled to purchase results transmission technology to be “deserted”.

Instead, the poll body decided to accept a donation from the government of South Korea of 2,000 digitalization and transmission devices of precinct counts. To date, little is known about the systems on which the broadcast of results will be relying. What we do know is that the technology will merely scan and digitize manually filled out precinct counts.

Peru obligated to review its electoral system

History repeats itself, and it seems there is no will for it to change.  This is one of the concussions drawn from the second voting round of the Peruvian presidential election carried out on June 5th, after which the country plunged into uncertainty due to a common enough scenario in any election: a close margin.

Although the final vote tally showed that the difference between Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peruanos por el Kambio (PPK) and Keiko Fujimori from Fuerza Popular was only 42,697 votes, that is only 0.48% of the total, the reality is that this minuscule difference that granted victory to the PPK has been seen before and will be seen again anywhere else in the world. That is because the people’s will is a variable capable of generating truly improbable results.

However, the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) was not prepared to answer to a highly polarized nation.  Not only did the office not started counting as soon as the polls closed, but it also took them four days to publish a report with an irreversible count, and a whole week to deliver final results.

Peru is therefore obligated to review its electoral system Although the country has legislation in place to modernize voting and has even designed an electronic vote model which has been undergoing testing for years, the electoral authorities have not been up to the challenges that come from implementing technology that would let them handle any election or result.

For instance, instead of moving onwards with voting machines and strengthening the corresponding security features, during the first round of voting on April 10th the number of voting circuits using automation had to be reduced, while the results for these elections and for those in June were negative.

The reasons for the misuse of e-voting in Peru are rooted in the ONPE, which despite following the best practices in the region during the design of their electronic voting system, have neglected its improvement. They have also neglected the logistics and preparation work for the elections; this was made clear in the last elections, when the insufficient or inexistent information given to the voters and poll workers made the voting significantly more cumbersome.

Recent facts force the Inca nation to improve their voting system. The risks associated with delaying the announcement of electoral results due to the inefficiency of the system must be calculated, so that the nation can go on a correction course and safeguard their electoral future.