Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chubut’s Electoral Results: A Handful of Doubts

On March 20th, the citizens of the Argentinian province of Chubut casted their votes to elect their new governor, a position disputed between the candidates Martín Buzzi and Carlos Eliceche.

Several days have passed since the Election Day, but the official consolidated data is not yet known. Although the ruling party candidate Buzzi was declared the winner, the delay in issuing the results and the slight difference between the candidates has created a shroud of doubt over the election. Various sources have suggested a lack of transparency in the process, and the debate about the need for implementing an electronic voting system has been revived.

In the context of this dispute, Chubut’s electoral authorities, a sector of the population and the political class argued the need to migrate to an electronic voting system to ensure transparency and speed in the results, in order to contribute to the strengthening of the Argentinian democratic system.

Many believe it is imperative to modernize the outdated manual counting system and follow the path of nearby democracies such as Brazil, a leader in Latin America where electronic voting has been successfully used for almost twenty years, or Venezuela, where it has taken place the biggest election with voter verified paper trail.

What happened in Chubut shows that a democratic process should not be consider successful if it can’t guarantee transparency and efficiency in the results. Whatever system is used for voting and counting, a country cannot afford to neglect this crucial aspect for the consolidation of democracy.


There are many critics of electronic voting, mainly those who hesitate the system’s reliability and security. Given these objections, it is necessary to recall quite successful and effective electoral processes, such as the 2010 Brazilian elections, in which 100 million votes were counted in three hours in a fully transparent and unobjectionable process.

Since 1996, Brazil’s advances in this field have been enormous and its results quite successful, thanks to the government efforts and its commitment to strengthen Democracy.

In 2009, during Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government, the Brazilian electronic voting system was submitted to rigorous safety testing. The government offered hackers US$2,900 if they could break or hack the system’s security. No one was able to claim the reward, showing that the system was ready to handle transparent and trustable electoral processes.

In the last elections held in that country, after the voting process finished, official consolidated data was presented only 15 minutes later. Three hours later, Brazilians knew who had won the elections for new President. This was a new record for an electorate of 135,8 million voters.

But in Chubut, where nearly 350,000 voters were eligible to vote, preliminary results were not even presented, and the information that circulated were more rumors spread by columnists tan official data provided by the electoral authorities.

In a world where current technologies offer so many solutions that have been proved successful, what has happened in Chubut is unacceptable. This is another example that shows how outdated the traditional (manual) voting systems are, and furthermore, the evident necessity of implementing electronic voting systems in democracies, not only in Latin America, but in many nations around the globe.