Either Bolivia modernizes itself or voting and institutionalism will continue to be jeopardized


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In Bolivia, manual voting affects the key phase of tallying and aggregation.

In Bolivia, after the 12 October presidential elections, part of the population applauded—the supporters of the newly reelected Evo Morales—, but nobody     celebrated. An outdated electoral system with no guarantees forced the country to  follow exit polls to anticipate results, as the High Electoral Court (TSE) was able  to broadcast the information from only 2.89% of the polling stations at the end of  the event.

The meager count did not stop President Morales, who proclaimed himself the winner. Meanwhile, opponents and citizens believed the projections from the polls, certainly fueled by the wide margin obtained by the winner: 60% of the votes. In any other democratic country, it would have been unacceptable that the polls dictated what the official results should have.

According to the TSE spokesman, Ramiro Paredes, the debacle in the electoral system obeyed to “problems in the data transmission system, which overheated, became slow, and did not pass the tests we had established. We were also worried about hack threats we received.”

With the passing of days, TSE’s inability to complete the key process of counting and aggregating votes has become apparent—90% of the voting stations in four days—, as well as other vital stages, as more irregularities have come to light as the tallying process advances incredibly slowly:  discrepancies between the data published on tse’s website and the repetition of the elections in 12 polling stations at the El Torno district and one in La Guardia due to multiple anomalies. This led to the announcement that the country will have its final results in November.

What happened in Bolivia could have been a tragedy in nations with conflicts or strong political tensions. The TSE was unable to carry out the elections seamlessly and safely, dooming the system to criticism and doubt in the future.

Since 2010, the country has voiced intentions to update its electoral platform by using an e-voting model after having accomplished a biometric registry, which recorded voters’ fingerprints. However, in four years the country has done very little to provide its citizens with a decent, reliable electoral system.

The vices and problems in the recent electoral processes seem to indicate that the time for hesitation has run out in this nation. The TSE has said that Bolivia is prepared to take on the technological challenge of voting electronically in 2015, at least partially. The country needs to advance and modernize its vote; otherwise it will continue to jeopardize voting and Democracy.

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After testing, Costa Rica decided to bet on e-voting


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Photo: La República

Last April 6th, when Costa Ricans voted—on second round—to elect their new president, they not only preserved their democratic system by attending the polling stations, but also supported the transformation process of their electoral system by massively testing the e-voting model that the nation expects to implement in 2016.

The event, organized by the High Electoral Court (TSE), allowed voters from various regions of the country to interact, after they had voted manually for their president, with the machines that would modernize their electoral system.

The e-voting system tested by Costa Rica shows similarities to that employed in other countries in the region, such as the US and Venezuela, as it’s based on the use of touchscreen machines where each voter can type his or her preferred options and then the device prints a vote receipt in order for the voter to verify that his or her selection was properly registered. This also ensures that there is a physical backup for each selection.

The software design began to be developed in 2011. However, the purchase of the equipments was only made effective between August and September 2013. It was only this year that testing and preparation of the system for the 2016 municipal elections began. This modernization program is being carried by the Engineering Department of the TSE’s Technological Strategy Directorate, and so far it has 50 electronic devices.

The experience was commended and supported by the Organization of American States (OAS). Josefina Vázquez Mota (from Mexico), Chief of the delegation, highlighted that the organization “saluted this effort with much satisfaction, as the conditions for its use were very favorable. Besides, the mechanism was observed to be very efficient and fast.”

The experience sets Costa Rica on the path to automate voting, and joining the elite of nations with a modern, safe, and transparent suffrage. TSE’s plans include continuing the tests and taking advantage of student elections at professional schools and universities to keep showing and improving the electronic voting system the whole country is betting on for the municipal elections that will take place in two years.