Argentina and Costa Rica delay electoral automation


Brazil and Venezuela are world leaders in election automation, with years of successful technology-powered polls between them. On the other, there are countries that, for one reason or another, have been stuck in manual polls despite all the grief that the antiquated system is associated with.

Such is the case for Argentina and Costa Rica. The former advanced on the objective of installing an automated system on a national scale in 2016, but despite their efforts did not manage to make this change. The latter focused on electoral technology and did not finalize any measure.

Argentina spent months debating an electoral reform whose central axis was the progressive adoption of a Single Electronic Ballot (BUE in Spanish). Yet the initiative was abruptly stopped in the senate.

In a scathing editorial, the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion revealed the disconnect between the Argentinian public’s clamor to overhaul the electoral system and the politicians’ pussyfooting, which hints that the latter stand to lose a lot when automation eventually eliminates vote manipulation.

More alarmingly, a scheme proposed by the government for the adoption of BUE’s (the model adopted in Salta) has had a less than stellar performance and had only raised doubts about its capacity so safeguard the voters’ will.

On the other hand, lack of funding has stalled the implementation of e-voting in Costa Rica, where election reforms seem to be languishing in the cellar.   The Electoral Registry Directorate in fact stated that “there is no economic feasibility for this project, at least in the short and medium term”, and that resources should be oriented to other priority areas.

Observers are quick to note that the Costa Rican government should look past the high initial investment needed to implement e-voting and see the larger savings that will be realized in the long term.

Admittedly, the cost of acquiring e-voting solutions seems prohibitive at the outset. After all, software, hardware, training, voter education do cost a lot of money.  Yet expenses drop for subsequent elections since the only maintenance and small upgrades are needed.

When Argentina and Costa Rica resume this debate in 2017, both countries would do well to realize that how important it is for democracies to start modernizing their elections, and how critical it is to select the most secure and efficient automated voting model for their unique needs.


The Dominican Republic fails in their attempt to modernize their voting system

The Dominican Republic have failed in their attempt to partially automate their voting system during the general elections  carried out on May 15th.

Different voices inside and outside the country have pointed out that non-compliance of internationally followed standards doomed this attempt at modernizing the vote.

For their most recent voting process, the Central Electoral Board hired the Spain-based Indra Sistemas to provide biometric identification and automated voting technology.  Results were clearly negative, given the logistic, technical and operational errors found both in the fingerprint capture devices and the vote counting machines.  Regrettably, the company’s lack of experience in biometric voter authentication and electronic vote counting was all too clear.

NGO Participación Ciudadana published a report stating the several problems encountered during the election, highlighting they included delays in opening polling centres due to issues with and the lack of biometric ID and counting units.   There were anomalies in 62.4% of the circuits with the vote counting machines, and in 40.4% of them with voter verification, while “30.7% of the polls registered problems with ballot scanning and 30.9% with electoral data transmission”, with the result that 97.7% of the centres had to resort to manual counting.

In view of these results, the NGO states that the electronic vote count and transmission, namely the novelty of this election, “were largely handicapped by the lack of equipment, the failures of the available working devices, and the scant little capacity to solve problems (…) to the extent that at 10:00 PM, four hours after the closing of the polls, only 20% of the electoral data had been transmitted, which forced the authorities to resort to manual vote counting at all three levels (presidential, regional and local)”.

These problems were confirmed in the preliminary report of the Organization of American States (OAS) observation mission, which states that “the weakest point of the day was the voting equipment used”.   The report goes on to mention that “in several centres equipment was missing, tech support staff did not show up, or there were connectivity and operation issues with the biometric control and automated vote counting machines”, so “the implementation of manual counting was needed to overcome these multiple setbacks”.

In addition to this, the authorities underestimated the importance of carrying out tests that could have prevented these problems on time, or opting for a gradual implementation of the technology.  Even the OAS highlighted the need for its progressive implementation.

The Dominican Republic now faces the possibility of having thrown away public trust and sizable public resources, which could have been used to provide the country with a voting system that not would have automated some stages of the process only, but would have added technology and security to the election as a whole.

Electoral irregularities impair Haitian democratic event

Haiti’s last August 9 legislative elections helped calm down political tensions and resume an electoral calendar that had been delayed for three years. However, the large number of irregularities that arose marred this important democratic event.

The elections presented flaws in several facets: only 18% of the electoral registry (which comprises 5.5 million registered voters) participated; delayed results; two deceased (or up to 10, according to some sources; and there were errors in the voter lists that prevented scores of people from voting.

Political violence erupted on election day, as well as in previous days. Moreover, delays by the staff in charge of opening the polling stations gave way to numerous problems that forced authorities to announce repetition of the elections in 25 districts. Since only three deputies out of the 119 posts were elected, and none of the 20 senatorial posts were appointed, a runoff was scheduled for October 25th.

Although countries such as Brazil, Canada, Norway, and the US partially funded the process, and Venezuela made contributions to the adjustment of the National Electoral Registry, a lack of resources and poor institutionalism prevented Haiti from fulfilling the minimum requirements for a successful election.

For this reason, it is again evident that the international community must reinforce its support. Improving trust in the system is vital, and this includes holding transparent elections. For this reason, it is necessary for the country to abandon the inefficient manual voting model it has been using for decades, which aside from not being transparent is extremely expensive. It is said that the cost of the elections was $14 per voter, more than twice what it should have been.