Scandal clouds election preparations in Honduras


Honduras will hold elections in November. The five months remaining will be spent under the shadow cast by the scandal of their organization. Four key companies involved in the process, including Mapa Soluciones, are under investigation for the irregularities in the awarding of several contracts. The scandal also involves the current directive of the Honduran Supreme Electoral Court (TSE).

The National Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) is the organism that has made the case public. Mapa Soluciones and other related companies are under scrutiny; these companies oversee the Preliminary Results Transmission System (Trep) and the Integrated Count and Result Broadcast System (Siede).  The former is in charge of transmitting, via phone, the results of a manual vote count to a tallying centre, while the latter is used to scan and send certified election returns over the Internet.

Both models have been used for several years, Trep since 2009 and Siade since 2012, both with several problems and generating mistrust. However, it is only now that the origin of the contracts subscribed between the TSE and companies like Mapa Soluciones, Geotech, Intelred and Corporación Majo is under the spotlight, since it violates the minimum norms for transparency and legality for the awarding of public contracts.

According to Odir Fernández, member of the CNA, the inquiries show that the owner of Mapa Soluciones, Faustino Reyes Rodríguez, has ties to a political party; additionally, the Trep contract was awarded to him directly just a month after the incorporation of his business, and therefore the company lacked the track record demanded by law.

The National Anti-Corruption Council also stated that Mapa was not enrolled in the State’s service providers list (they were added in 2012) and lacked municipal permits, but the TSJ overlooked these flaws and awarded them the contract, even for the 2013 and 2017 elections.

There is also an element that would, at least, raise eyebrows anywhere else in the globe: two former coordinators and advisers of the Trep system are working for Mapa Soluciones.

These irregularities are repeated with the other companies, and alarms are going off because, according to the CNA, throughout the years and “in several reports, Mapa Soluciones acknowledges the failures in Trep and the data recognition system, yet allege they should not be considered failures, but rather errors that count as useful experience for future improvement”.

Facing these facts, the Chief Magistrate of the TSE, David Matamoros Batson, declared that if the Advisory Council, which includes 10 political parties, concludes that Mapa Soluciones does not meet the requirements, a different company must be engaged.    However, he defended the Tribunal, claiming there has been a media and political narrative that intends to harm the organism and the company itself.

The presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, Luis Zelaya, announced he will take a petition to the TSE to cancel their contract with Mapa, mainly due to the company’s links to the National Party, and the failures registered by the system in the 2009 and 2013 elections.

As shown by the accusations and the findings of the investigation, transparency in electoral matters is precarious in Honduras.  The country faces a decisive moment: they can either purge the management of their public contracts and transform their voting model, or permanently hurt the credibility of electoral authorities, undermining public trust even further.

Advertisements

Ecuador goes to the polls again


12.8 million Ecuadorians are called to vote on February 19th to elect a new President of the Republic, 137 members of the National Assembly and 5 legislators to the Andean Parliament.

For months, the country debated and questioned the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of accepting a “donation” of 2 thousand devices to be used for vote counting and the broadcast of results.

Until today, and after three simulations carried out during the preparation stage of the election, the authorities have limited themselves to communicate that the system is ready; however, they have not offered details on how the vote counting scanners performed.

Facing this lack of information, it is good to remember the critical steps Ecuador must take – steps on which its political and institutional stability will rest.

First, there is the matter of rapid counts, which are nothing but preliminary voting results.  During these elections, the CNE will debut this process, and it will be based in the selection of a random sample -between 25% and 30%-  of the Vote Reception Boards, i.e. the location where the certified election returns are tallied. A total of 9,617 people in the country were trained for this task.  Additionally, 650 people will operate the call centre that will receive the reports resulting from this quick count, so they are made public a few hours after the polls close.

The second step that calls for attention will be the scanning of the election returns.  CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo explained that as soon as the voting is over, the members of the Vote Reception Boards will begin the count and the filling of certified election returns, which will then be handed inside a sealed envelope to a collecting police officer so they are taken to the scanning area. There, the returns will be digitized and sent through an electronic system to be posted online and be made publicly accessible.

Although this mechanism may seem diligent, Pozo himself has stated that the official forecast is to present conclusive results five days after the polls close. This, given the country was satisfied with having only preliminary results on election day and using equipment that fails to improve the model, since the devices only scan and transmit manual election returns.

Next Sunday we will know if the statistical approximations of quick counts were enough or, to the contrary, if the country’s electorate and the political climate demanded expedient official results.  Right then is when the lack of a speedy vote processing system such as e-voting will be made evident.  The die is cast.  We can only wait.

Ecuador goes to the polls with more doubts than certainty


Foto: Últimas Noticias

On February 19th, Ecuador will be holding general elections. In preparation for this event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) carried out their third simulation test of the electoral infrastructure and declared themselves ready.

According to the authorities, during the last test before the elections – February 5th – the 1,799 locations that will be working during election day were activated, and their operational readiness was proved.

CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo stated the system is “completely ready” to fulfil the process, where a new President, 137 members of the National Assembly, and 5 legislators for the Andean Parliament will be elected.

“All systems have passed the certification norms the Electoral Council has today; therefore, we guarantee the country this will be a flawless process”, stated Pozo, without mentioning the results of the test.  Regrettably, there is little know about the the performance of the quick count – previously an exit poll, and now in the hands of the CNE. There were also no comments on the performance of the donated scanners that will be used to put the certified electoral returns online.

Political parties have voiced concerns about the voter roll and as the quick count process; the latter aims to deliver preliminary results three hours after the polls close.

Some political spokespeople have also voiced concerns over the selection of the Vote Reception Boards, which will be in charge of issuing non-official results, given the fact they were not chosen in accordance to the nation’s voting distribution and the risk which that entails.

Other political parties have questioned the lack of audits on the technology, the voter rolls, and the system itself.  Gilmar Gutiérrez, leader of Partido Sociedad Patriótica (PSP), denied that any party has attended the alleged revisions carried out by the CNE.

Despite the concerns, the stage is set in Ecuador. 12.8 million voters are called to the polls. Both the non-official results and the use of equipment to scan the election returns and transmit them are generating more suspicions than certainties, but we will have to wait to evaluate this process on which the nation’s political stability depends.