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.

Electoral technology in Salta (Argentina) fails once again


There is concern in Salta over the performance of automated tallying ballot boxes.

Bad news over electronic ballots have become recurrent in the Argentine province of Salta. Numerous setbacks with the technology employed had also been recorded during electoral processes back in 2008 and 2013. Unfortunately, those bad experiences did not functionas warnings and once again, during the Simultaneous and Obligatory Open Primary Elections (PASO) that took place last April 12th, multiple flaws in the machines marred the day’s results.

At the PASO, hundreds of devices presented different kinds of setbacks, and as might be expected, political leaders denounced fraud and requested the termination of the contract with the company in charge of promoting and preparing the technology for future electoral processes.

The formalization of the petition was led by the main opposing coalition, headed by Juan Carlos Romero, from the Renovation Front. The document delivered to the Electoral Court exposes the fact that the electronic ballot box used “breaches the universality, enforceability, and secrecy of suffrage, and appears to be vulnerable to the deployment of fraudulent maneuvers…”

Specifically it was denounced that for instance, 299 (25%) out of the 1188 ballot boxes used at Salta’s capital had to be replaced. Moreover, there were complaints that serving in the election there were devices using unauthorized software, and that out of the 5700 machines employed, only 2862 had been sealed with a security system. There is also an alert on the flaws in the printers, which prevented the printing of dozens of opening and closing minutes, as well as delays due to the poor training of technicians.

What happened at the PASO brings up once again the focus on the performance of the electronic ballot box provided by the local company MSA (Magic Software Argentina). It raises concerns on how it could behave during the general elections that will take place on July 5 in Buenos Aires, where the same technology will be used but with twice the number of voters. We have already talked about this when MSA won the tender (among vices and arbitrary decisions) despite being the most expensive bid, and the company having the least experience. Besides, although this system is offered as e-voting, it is only an automated tallying system and maintains the weakness of manual voting.

The rash of bad experiences in Salta gives rise to the need to demand the revision of the system provided by MSA, not only to safeguard each Argentine citizen’s vote, but also to guarantee the reliability and legitimacy of the representatives elected.

Lithuania open to online voting


Lithuanians could use online voting similar to the one used in Estonia. Photo:

It’s hard to resist change when there are neighbors out there who are determined to have the best electoral technology for safeguarding the people’s intent. This is what Lithuania is experiencing right now. The country is evaluating the possibility of going to online voting, somehow emulating the model used by other European nations such as Estonia.

Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis, and the Minister of Transport and Communication, Rimantas Sinkevičius, announced that they have proposed various legal amendments, seeking to implement one of the most advanced types of e-voting: online voting.

The initiative follows a public survey which revealed that 65% of the population approves of this voting mechanism. According to the information disclosed so far, aside from revising the laws in order to authorize electoral automation, Lithuania is also studying the Estonian electoral model toward its implementation.

Estonia recently gave the world a lesson on online voting, as on March 1st, during its parliamentary elections, it got 30% of its electorate (176,328 voters) to vote online. This country has the world’s most sophisticated online voting system, going as far as to allow voter authentication through cell phone, as well as the addition of a digital signature to each vote.

The National Electoral Commission of Estonia has stated that the success of remote voting in the country is due to the fact that its use is optional and it is done before the actual electoral event. Moreover, the system has several features that add value, such as allowing voters to send as many e-votes as they wish, of which however only the last one counts.

Traditional voting for the entire electorate and postal voting for citizens living abroad are still available for those who prefer such choices. It is even possible for those who have previously voted online to attend a polling center on Election Day and vote manually, overriding any e-vote previously cast online.

Lithuania has begun the path toward a difficult yet attainable goal: to allow its citizens to replicate the best practices in e-voting, which are also successfully being implemented by other European nations such as Switzerland—a pioneer in online voting—or like the US and Canada.