Friday, April 13, 2012

Elections in Jalisco – Chronicle of a Tragedy Foretold

In previous posts we have highlighted the importance of conducting open and fair competitive bidding processes in order to select reliable e-voting service providers. Unfortunately, the very first step to automate elections in Jalisco (Mexico), which was the design of the bidding process itself, was as murky as it can get. 

According to Nauhcatzin Bravo Aguilar, an electoral counselor in Jalisco, Pounce Consulting participated in the elaboration of the basis for the very same bidding process in which the company resulted elected. The company allegedly created and signed a document specifying what the winner company should offer. “The document was used by the Information Technology Department of Jalisco’s Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute (IEPCJ) to elaborate the basis of the public bidding process”, said Mr. Bravo Aguilar.

That being said, there is little doubt as to why a company with such limited experience in the design and deployment of electronic voting solutions was chosen. The bidding process was made to fit the profile of the company and its voting system. 

After such irregularities, a chain reaction of negative results was the only possible outcome. Pounce Consulting failed to timely deliver the 1200 electronic voting machines scheduled for March 2nd. This delay compromised the electoral calendar and dampened the credibility of Jalisco’s Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute.

Once the machines were delivered, a calendar to conduct different tests was designed. The first one of such tests took place on March 25. According to different media outlets, 40% of the machines failed to transmit the information gathered. The IEPCJ minimized the inconveniences attributed them to deficient cellular network coverage and poor access to electricity.

In light of all these events, it is reasonable to expect more problems in Jalisco. A poor service provider is damaging the well-earned reputation electronic voting is gaining around the world with successful and serious companies. Juan José Alaclá Dueñas, another counselor for Mexico’s Electoral Institute (IEPCJ) declared “If we make a mistake with electronic voting, we will bury it not only in Jalisco, but for the entire nation. We will delay it for the next twenty years”. These unfortunate statements hurt not only the electronic voting industry, but also Mexicans who deserve clean and transparent elections with effective and reliable electronic voting platforms. 

Note: Even though in this blog we have always been highly pro electronic voting, it is very difficult to be supportive of processes such as the one taking place in Jalisco. We certainly hope that personal interests do not get in the way of the well-being of Mexicans.