Russia and the transition to electronic voting

A little over a week ago, Russia held local elections in 74 of the 83 federal entities. More than 24 million voters were called to the polls to elect about 3.200 positions, for which 50.000 candidates were nominated. This big event served as a “rehearsal” for the December elections, and it was notable that several locations used electronic voting.

Russia has been interested in the automated electoral system for several years now, but it was in 2010 when Russia approved the legislation to modernize its electoral system. In that year, the secretary of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Nikolai Konkin, visited Brazil to attend the presidential election and assess the applicability of the Brazilian model, which uses keyboard machines that automate the elections 100%.

“This electronic voting experience will be taken into account for the modernization of the electoral process in the Russian Federation. The CEC is developing the appropriate program, which is expected to be approved this November”, said Konkin last year when he visited Brazil as an international observer.

In the following months, Russia laid the foundations for electronic voting, and in March 13th 2010, several of its provinces experimented with a modern automated system. Bashkiria was one of the provinces that experienced e-voting, using machines with audio guides to guide the voters in simple and fast steps to complete the voting process.

The machines deployed worked as follows: once the voter was proven to be eligible to vote and received a card to activate the voting machine, the touch screen presented the nominated candidates. The citizen had to touch on the screen for marking his or her choice, and then pressed the confirmation botton. Then, the machine printed a paper proof of the vote. When the voting process finished, the votes from the ballot were counted, aggregated and transmitted to a computer center. An information Centre provided by the CEC, allowed the Russians to know the results in real time.

Another technology tested in Russia were the “mobile” or “itinerant” voting machines used in this occasion.  These machines were taken to the houses of disabled voters, who couldn’t mobilize to the polling stations due to illnesses or age factors. The displacement was monitored with the Russian navigation satellite system GLONASS.

The results of the e-voting implementation in Russia are being fully analyzed. The criticisms of the process that have been made by the political actors haven’t been technological in nature, but political. For this reason, the CEC has declared the process as successful.

Ecuador introduces e-vote

Ecuador seeks to match Brazil and Venezuela, the pioneers of electronic voting en South America. In May, the Electoral National Council evaluated three alternatives to automate the electoral process from 2013.

Even though it seems as the first steps to modernize the voting process in the country, reality is that in 2004 Ecuador tested a pilot program with 160 machines supplied by the Brazilian government. The successful results were taken into account for the implementation of electronic vote that started on 2006.

The electoral authorities held a technological fair, where 5 companies (Voting Solutions Inc, Premier Election Solution and Smartmatic, as well as Escuela Politécnica del Litoral and Kruger) presented their proposals for the automation of the electoral process in the country.

However, it was until 2008 when electoral automation gained the status of execution plan, considering adopting Venezuela’s technology to partially technify the voting process of 2009. In that time, Fausto Camacho, spokesperson of CNE informed that the electoral body contacted Venezuela to acquire the loan of 15 thousand machines from Smartmatic. Due to the proximity to the elections this wasn’t possible, but the need of providing a modern, safe and transparent electoral system for the country became an important issue.

Since 2010, the CNE has been leading an aggressive plan that aims at having an electoral technology that adapts to the characteristics of Ecuador. The initial formulas that are being studied are:

–           Touch screen, through which the voter chooses the options by pressing with its finger tips and the vote is counted automatically

–          The use of electronic urns for printing the vote

–          The use of a mechanical pencil, similar to the voting action of the manual vote, which allows the recording of the election into a database.

The initial budget the Ecuadorian government has to acquire this technology is 145 million dollars, which will be invested in a progressive way during the next three years, investing 17 million dollars in 2010. The interest of Ecuador for this technology shows, besides the intention of complying with the law that orders the automation of the elections, that it has developed a plan that accelerates the implementation of e-voting. The political will is the only thing missing for the approval of the resources to make the project viable.

The Ecuadorian electoral process states that the e-vote will give reliability and speed to the results, and will help the environmental depredation. All of this makes us think that in Ecuador everything is settled, the only thing missing is that the citizens benefit from automation.