El Salvador faces an electoral abyss


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Salvadorans have been left with no electoral results.

El Salvador went to the polls on March 1st in order to renew legislative and municipal authorities. Although the electoral event proceeded normally, the crucial stage of vote tallying became a real nightmare, as several days have passed since the elections took place and there are still no official results. The country is facing an electoral abyss.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had to break its promise of releasing “preliminary results” a few hours after closing the polling places, as the company hired to design the software for releasing results, Soluciones Aplicativas (Saplic), was unable to fulfill its duty. This has deprived the country of finishing anelection neatly, without jeopardizing its institutional and democratic stability.

The TSE announced that it will only be able to release the final official election results in two more weeks, as technical faults that had been previously detected but not fixed by the technology provider made it impossible for the software to “show the minutes” containing the allocation of votes by parties, and to enable their transmission for the preliminary count.

The faulty performance of the company led the TSE president, Julio Olivo to denounce deliberate irregularities: “I can safely say that there was sabotage, because I have evidence for this,” he declared before the Public Prosecutor.
While the authorities unravel what happened, there is a thesis circulating that the source of all evil in this election in El Salvador was the tender process in which Saplic was awarded the contract to develop the program for releasing electoral results.

Although other companies bid for this tender, having well-known experience in electoral technology, which in the past have automated different electoral stages, or which even guaranteed the success of 100% automated elections in various countries, a local company “with no other guarantee about its experience and performance record than the word of technical advisors” was chosen. Local media outlets point out that TSE magistrates acknowledged that they chose Saplic “in good faith.” Since the magistrates had neither educational background nor any experience in computing, they followed recommendations from the specialists they consulted.

The TSE’s former president, Eugenio Chicas, also criticized the company and the electoral body. He stated that choosing Saplic was an irresponsible decision, as it was not based on technical criteria.

In light of the progress of technology, and even of e-voting best practices, what has happened in El Salvador is unacceptable and must be amended. Risking political stability of a country by overlooking vital elements in a tender process and those inherent to the adoption of automated systems can only leave the people’s intent adrift and harm trust in the institutions.

Latin America took decisive steps toward e-voting on 2014


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2014 elections as reviewed on this infographic by The Economist

2014 could be considered “an electoral feast” as 42% of the world’s population was called to vote. Such staggering number was set due to the fact that 42 countries carried out elections, and among them, 10 from Latin America.

The balance of the year for Latin America shows Brazil further strengthening its supremacy in electoral automation, while Panama, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador taking firm steps to modernizing their voting systems.

Ecuador carried out the most complex test, as it experimented with two different technologies during the February elections. The province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used Smartmatic’s touchscreen voting machines that print a vote receipt on paper. Meanwhile, in Azuay, the electoral body deployed an electronic tallying system designed by Argentina’s MSA.

Paraguay, which joined the elite of countries with electoral regulations for the implementation of e-voting in 2013, announced that it is currently evaluating whether it will repeat last year’s experience, in which 17,000 Brazilian voting machines were used.

Costa Rica showed its people the technology it hopes to adopt for the upcoming 2016 elections, by letting voters interact with the voting machines designed by the High Electoral Court (TSE).

Meanwhile, during its general elections in May, Panama tested out technology developed by the Electoral Court (TE), which reproduces features from systems already tested in other countries, such as a card-activated touchscreen machine displaying candidates to press on in order to vote.

Peru became the only “black spot” in a year of electoral successes. Instead of building on the system designed designed by the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE), the nation opted to approve a not very transparent tender bid for the development of the automated system’s software. This has sparked a lot of problems, and will force the country to revise its application in future elections.

Finally, Brazil once again showed the world why it is considered one of the world leaders in vote automation. Its large, election-tested platform was deployed twice in October.