THE CURRENT STATE OF ELECTRONIC VOTING IN LATIN AMERICA
- Written by EVoting Communications
- February 10th, 2023
The reality around the world is different with respect to electronic voting and, recently, in Latin America, three countries in the region opted for elections that include this modality in different formats.
Ecuador, El Salvador and Paraguay dared to make incursions with new technologies in the democratic processes. The three countries used different methodologies, which in turn solve different problems.
The following is a review of the current situation of electronic voting in Latin America.
Ecuador has recent antecedents in this matter. In the Sectional Elections that took place this February 5, 97,000 Ecuadorians living abroad had the possibility of voting telematically from one of the 52 zones where this method was enabled.
This was announced in September 2022, where the National Electoral Council (CNE) informed the implementation of this new methodology that would benefit Ecuadorians from different parts of the world.
Despite being elections where regional authorities were elected, Ecuadorians abroad could vote, but only to elect the seven members of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), and for the eight questions of a referendum promoted by the Government.
The model used consisted of first registering with their ID or passport number, registering through facial recognition, answering questions to validate information and registering their email with their telephone number.
At the moment of voting, the voter had to enter his or her ID or passport number and a message was sent to his or her email with a six-digit code to be entered into the platform. After this, three options were given to verify identity and the voter chose one to finally access the ballot.
At the time of the opening of the vote, 19,000 Ecuadorians had registered out of the 97,000 who had the option.
In spite of the great progress in this matter, many eligible voters abroad reported that they had difficulties when voting or that they were unable to vote. Reports from Sweden or Belgium mentioned crashes in the voting system.
A similar case to the Ecuadorian one is being experienced in El Salvador. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) will implement electronic voting for Salvadorans abroad in the elections for President, Vice President and Legislative Assembly in 2024.
During 2022, El Salvador’s overseas voter registry rose to 792,000, increasing by more than 180,000 people from the previous year.
Recently, the controversy for the 2024 elections has been about how to verify the identity of voters abroad. As a result, the possibility of biometric registration has been mentioned.
The magistrate of the TSE, Julio Olivo, assured that he will present a proposal to the full court that includes this mechanism.
The great discussion regarding this issue is the security and cybersecurity that could be violated in the system. According to the Salvadoran specialist, Carlos Palomo, the biometric system is the best option, but at the same time it can be risky. The latter because El Salvador does not have a law that protects personal data from a possible cybersecurity attack and could generate a bigger problem in the future.
The system should be ready in July 2023 and Salvadorans abroad will be able to vote one month ahead of their compatriots on national soil, who will have to wait until February 4 to exercise their vote.
The Paraguayan case is different from those mentioned above, since electronic voting is being implemented, but not remote voting. The system in Paraguay consists of a bulletin that each voter must introduce in a voting machine.
The bulletin must have the signatures of the voting table officials and once introduced in the machine, the person will be able to mark his preferences in a scaled way. The new modality comes as a solution to the system of unblocked lists. In this model, the voter can vote for a list and can totally or partially modify the order of preference of candidates.
The Paraguayan government has promoted measures to educate the population about electronic voting, taking machines to different parts of the country to teach the correct way to cast a vote, and even generating an online simulator.
All this with a view to the general elections of April 30, where electronic voting will become more relevant.
Both the Ecuadorian and Paraguayan cases, despite being different in forms and methods, apply technology to democratic processes and are open to the possibility of including electronic voting more and more.
These are added to the case of other countries such as Brazil, where electronic voting is the system that has been implemented since 1996 and in 2018 the printed vote was eliminated for the general elections.