Ecuador is preparing to change with the aid of technology


Ecuador will use quick count in 2014 elections. Photo: CNE

Ecuador has decided to improve its electoral system and is sparing no effort. At the same time that it is organizing an e-voting pilot for around one million voters—8% of the 11.6 million people on the voting registry—, it has also approved the use of a quick count modality (preliminary results) during the February 2014 elections. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced that it has approved the Quick Count Project and Operative Plan in cooperation with Dominican Republic’s Central Electoral Board in order to speed up the release of unofficial election results that year.

In 2011, Ecuadorians had to wait two weeks to know the results of a referendum, which led to champion election automation. However, while the selection of the technology that will automate elections takes place, the use of machines from the Dominican Republic’s electoral body for the transmission of preliminary results will be allowed.

Paúl Salazar, CNE vice president, explained that 1500 devices (computers with scanner) will be used in 1300 electoral precincts around the country. The process involves scanning a certain number of minutes—around 40%—, which will be transmitted to a consolidation center in order to establish trends and to be able to announce unofficial results two hours after the polling stations close.

Although quick count is not the best modality to use for the first results bulletin since the information obtained is unofficial until all results are tallied, Ecuador opted to seek a solution that allows to shorten the lapse of uncertainty on Election Day while the automation process takes place. This will be the experience with ballots cast nationwide except in the municipalities of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, where a pilot that seeks to leave manual voting behind will take place.

Regarding this second novelty, it is known now that the e-voting pilot test will employ two different technologies. Azuay will use a system belonging to Argentina’s National Direction of Electoral Services, which consists of an electronic ballot box with smart ballots, while Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas will test the Venezuelan model, due to the fact that this country agreed to lend its touchscreen machines that include the capability to print vote receipts on paper.

The two experiences that Ecuador is preparing, quick count and election automation in two regions, show that in light of the erratic performance of manual voting, the nation has decided to use technology to offer its citizens the opportunity to have a system where a guaranteed vote is the rule and not the exception.

Colombia defines coordinates for e-voting pilot


Colombia will carry out an electoral automation pilot to show the country the advantages of electronic voting. Photo: Registrar’s Office

More constituencies, two models of electronic voting, and the scheduling of a date before March 2014 summarize the new coordinates of the pilot test that Colombia will be carrying out to show the country the advantages of electoral automation.

The suspension of the Colombian political parties’ internal referendum, originally scheduled for September 29th and expected to be the event where e-voting would be deployed, forced the country to rethink the experience. However, the Registrar’s Office did not falter, and together with the advisory commission it completed the technical report that will be taken to the Executive branch so that resources will be allocated for Colombia to advance toward a modern and safe electoral system.

Far from turning into an obstacle, this delay brought improvements to the electoral journey. The authorities decided to raise the number of constituencies to be automated from 33 to 93 schools. This way, a larger group of districts and a larger electoral roll will experiment with the two e-voting models that will be tested.

Colombia seeks to subject the performance of two types of e-voting to public scrutiny. The first type is based on PCOS technology (precinct count optical scan), which is basically the use of a ballot box equipped with a reader or scanner to identify each ballot and process votes in order to tally them automatically. The equipment must also be able to print a vote receipt on paper.

The second option is the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, which is based on the use of touchscreen devices that enable suffrage, vote storage, and their tally and transmission to a computing center. This kind of equipment also has the capacity to emit paper receipts of the ballot cast by each voter.

The Registrar’s Office will be responsible for deciding which of these two technologies will be used in Colombia over the next months. Besides, it will make sure that the machines are subjected to extreme situations such as power outages and connectivity problems in order to sustain the selection of the technology that will automate the electoral system in the future.

Moreover, there was an agreement that the test will be carried out before the March 2014 legislative elections, as the institution’s intention is to comply with Law 1475 of 2011, which stipulates the fulfillment of an e-voting pilot before these elections.

Colombia has had to overcome many barriers to reach the definitive step towards the implementation of e-voting. A lack of resources, political resistance, and lack of trust may have hindered automation for years, but for this nation, never stopping has been the key to success.