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).

Spanish America strives to link technology with popular election


The Spanish autonomous community of Canarias will use tablets for the transmission of results.

The use of technology in the delicate and complex process of organizing elections continues to expand in Spanish America. In addition to the two global benchmarks of the region—Brazil and Venezuela—, there are other countries and regions joining in, such as Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, among others.

Two regions where technology will come closer to voters in the coming months are Mexico and the Spanish autonomous community of the Canary Islands.

In the Canary Islands, the authorities have authorized the use of tablets to speed up the transmission of results. According to the technical specs of the exercise, 1,124 tablets will be used next May 24th at the polling stations where councillors and deputies will be elected, which will speed up the process of vote tally.

This initiative shows that there are procedures that make the benefits of electoral technology evident in terms of optimizing voting processes and enforce guarantees.

In Mexico, where elections will be held in June, the National Electoral Institute (INE) has not made any progress in the development of the automation pilot test that had been promised for this year. However, the state of Chiapas will implement an online voting model that will enable citizens living abroad to participate in the elections. The process is very simple (registration, password generation, and ballot casting), and will set an example for this country, in terms of how technology can become a means of political inclusion.

Parallel to these experiences, Honduras joined the group of nations that seek to generate the legal platform that enables e-voting. A bill is under way in the Parliament for the automation of the 2017 elections. This would allow the region (which has experienced strong political frictions) to find a mechanism that guarantees the electoral will, and along with it, the path to stability.

2015 is already under way and there are several initiatives that put under the spotlight some of the objectives which some countries are pursuing in electoral matters. The good news is that most of the ideas are based on the implementation of e-voting best practices.