Mexico will test out locally designed e-voting system

mexicoMexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) has set the goal of automating the country’s electoral system by 2018. Three years away from the deadline, the organization is still facing various obstacles. However, in light of the June 7 federal elections, the electoral agency will present an e-voting model designed and built in the country.

The pilot test that will be deployed in District 02 of Chihuahua, District 03 of Aguascalientes, and District 04 of Hidalgo seeks to become the breaking point enabling Mexico to close the technological-electoral gap where it lags behind other Latin American countries.

According to the INE, the organization’s system was built and produced by the Research and Advanced Studies Institute (Cinvestav) from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), following “international canons and protocols.”

Information presented thus far by INE shows that Mexico copied some of the world’s best practices in e-voting. One example of this is the fact that the voting machines have the capacity to print vote receipts on paper, an electoral guarantee pioneered in Venezuela. It was also revealed that the devices have a screen where voters will mark their selection, and at the end of the day the machines will print minutes with the results, which will be immediately transmitted to a data center.

The experience was designed so that voters can interact with 1,500 machines distributed across three districts in the three states chosen for the test after the voting in the federal elections (for 1,996 posts, including local and national deputies, mayors, and heads of delegation). Thus, they can verify the simplicity of the process, as well as the guarantees it offers.

INE’s Statistics and Electoral Documentation Director, Gerardo Martínez, pointed out that aside from the technical benefits e-voting offers, Mexico wants to leverage technology, as the electoral agency estimates that with the jump from paper votes to electronic ones, the cost of each vote would go from 56 cents (0.036 dollars) to 3 cents (0.0019 dollars).

The electoral agency’s bet is that after the e-voting test run, both voters and political actors will act as replicators of the benefits of automation, so that the authorities promote the adoption of technology. This would require a legal reform enabling the use of voting machines, as well as the budget approval for the production of the equipment and the compliance with vital stages such as the information campaign, technician and voter training, and drills, among others.

After drills, e-voting in Ecuador is ready to go


Smartmatic’s machines have already arrived in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Photo: El Comercio.

During the past few weeks, Ecuador has carried out an intense agenda of tests and audits to shield the execution of the first automated binding elections in the country. On February 23, during the provincial elections, three electoral technologies will be used in three districts. In order to guarantee that the systems, equipment and logistics respond to the complexity and demands of the event, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has decided to simulate each stage of the process.

Four drills took place in the municipalities of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, where the final automated events will also be held. Various tests were conducted to verify each process and debug the systems.

The CNE Vice President, Paúl Salazar, pointed out that the need to leverage the Integrated Electoral Administration System (SIAE), the pilot plans for e-voting in Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and the installation of the rapid count program will shape a 100% Ecuadorian IT system in 2017 in which these technological elements will be guarantee the transparency of each process.

In Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas —with 300,000 registered voters— machines and software provided by Smartmatic will be used. The drill involved the deployment of 61 precincts with 113 voting machines, which made it possible to put logistics (equipment installation and personnel training) to the test, while measuring at the same time the performance of the touchscreen devices, which capture, save, tally, aggregate, and transmit results. Besides, these machines print a voting receipt for each electoral operation performed, which enables on-site audits (right at the end of the event) or afterwards in order to compare manual scrutiny with the automated one.

In Azuay (600 voters), electronic ballots designed by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) will be employed. For the development of this exercise, 100 electoral precincts and 200 voting machines were set up. These devices have smart ballots, which must be inserted in the machines in order to register each vote. Votes are stored within a chip contained in the ballot, so each ballot must go through the machines after the election for scrutiny.

Together with the optimization of the processes, the drills helped to generate findings such as the average time citizens spend voting, which according to CNE is between 2 and 3 minutes. Moreover, the test revealed that the electoral body will have the possibility to emit results two hours after closing the polls.

Ecuador’s technical tests left the electoral system and e-voting ready to go for next February 23, when the country will elect 23 provincial prefects, 221 mayors, 1305 councilors, and 4079 spokespeople for the parish offices. CNE has indicated it is ready, and the even Electoral Observation Mission from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) applauded the country’s preparedness. The only thing left now is the massive attendance of voters in order to consolidate the use of technology in the defense and warranty of voting in this country.

The machines behind Ecuador’s e-voting simulation


The machine that will be used by voters at Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas is a Smartmatic-designed model. Photo: CNE

At the core of every automated voting process is the voting machine, and Ecuador has set out to try three different machines with different technologies, in order to choose which direction to follow in modernizing their elections. On February 24th (during the country’s local elections) close to 1 million voters will not only select their regional authorities, but in a way they will also choose their voting system’s future.

Ecuador’s strategy is to have its electoral technology scrutinized by both technicians and citizens; with this intend the country has designed a binding pilot e-voting test in the Azuay and Santo Domingo de las Tscáchilas departments, and an experimental one Quito’s sector of La Morita. Three voting machines will be employed, with characteristics that appear to be similar, but whose software will make a difference as the upcoming February elections will show.

The machines Azuay will use

In this area, Ecuador chose to try out the e-voting model designed by Magic Software Argentina (MSA), which is in use in the Argentine province of Salta. It includes an electronic ballot box and a smart ballot that must be inserted in the machine; doing so enables the user to make his/her choice by means of a touch screen. The votes are stored in a chip for a later count. The equipment lets the user cast blank and null votes, and produces a printed voting voucher.

The software generates opening and closing protocols, and vote count certificates for the election, but it doesn’t include automated tallying; the smart ballots must be inserted and read by a verification device embedded in the voting machine. This in required for the system to print and save a tally sheet, which is later sent electronically to a tallying centre.

The machines Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas will use

The e-voting system this region will try out is based on the technology being used in Venezuela for the past 10 years, supplied by Smartmatic. The voters select their candidate through a touch screen which requires user confirmation before the vote is finalized. After the vote has been cast, the machine prints a paper receipt that shows the voter’s selection.

The software lets the voting machines store, count, tally and send the results in a safe, fully automated way. A characteristic of the system is that the process and the equipment in their entirety can be audited before, during and after the elections by technicians, citizens or institutions. The system contemplates several security measures, such as the redundant storage of the vote in several media and the safeguard of the voter’s identity through a randomized storage procedure. Users can check the printed vouchers against the results of the automated count.

The machines La Morita will use

Russian technology will be used in an experimental capacity in this section of the country’s capital, Quito. These machines are activated by means of a security card with a barcode. Their touch screen displays the voting options, and after the voter makes his/her selection (which includes null and blank votes), the vote is stored and ready to be transmitted.