Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Great Success of the Primaries in Venezuela

The primary elections in Venezuela last Sunday were undoubtedly an absolute success for technology at the service of democracy.

Venezuela had never seen a democratic exercise of this magnitude: 3 million people voted for the candidate who will compete against Hugo Chávez this October. With 60% of the votes, Henrique Capriles became the sole contender for the next round.

This is the first time that Venezuelans are summoned to choose a candidate who will represent about 20 different ideologies during the next presidential elections. “Venezuela woke up with a new political reality,” said Capriles. 

Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), commended the transparency and efficiency with which the voting process was carried out. This major achievement is due, in no small part, to the effectiveness displayed by the e-voting operators during the elections. By 10:30am on Sunday, 100% of the voting machines in Caracas were working according to plan, and all eventualities throughout the day were duly fixed.

The outstanding results of this journey represent the triumph of democracy. They also reaffirm how reliable technology can be at assisting the exercise of the fundamental right to vote.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Electronic voting continues to gain terrain across the Venezuelan political spectrum

Photo by Carlos Hernández
Caracas, Feb. 9, 2012. On Sunday, February 12, 2012, independent leaders and opposition parties grouped in the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) will hold open primary elections aimed at defining a single candidate to stand against President Hugo Chavez in the presidential elections scheduled for October 7, 2012. The primaries will also determine the opposition’s representatives to challenge President Chavez’s candidates for different positions at the state and municipal levels in another round of elections to take place in December, 2012.

This democratic feast will set the stage, once again, for Venezuelan opposition to test the robust automated platform that has gained numerous positive reviews from voters and voting authorities around the world by providing accurate and transparent results election after election. February’s elections will mark the second occasion the opposition candidates requests the National Electoral Council (CNE) to carry out their primaries using Venezuela’s state of the art voting system. The recurrence denotes an important change in how some opposition leaders perceive the Venezuelan system provided by Smartmatic, as the most vociferous opponents of electronic voting now endorse the system and will participate in the elections as candidates at different levels of the primaries.

“We are very glad that all parties involved have welcomed our technology. Our system provides not only enormous monetary and logistic advantages, but also, auditability and efficency levels that are unobtainable with manual voting”, said Chief Executive Officer of Smartmatic, Antonio Mugica. “We celebrate that misinformation and doubt have cleared the way for transparency and trust”. As time has passed, and multiple elections have been won and lost by the different actors of the Venezuelan political spectrum, lingering doubts about the transparency and efficiency of the system have disipated.

Venezuela, nowadays a world reference in the adoption of fully automated electoral processes, began its electronic voting experience in 1998 using only scanners for vote counting. The country moved forward by automating all stages of the process in 2004 using Smartmatic’s technology. From the 2004 referendum recall the company has grown to become the world leader in electronic voting with more than 1.5 billion audited votes and dozens of elections held throughout the world.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Technological Changes for 2012 Elections with Digital Voting


We are set to see many major elections all around the world in 2012. Not surprisingly, the technology involved continues to evolve and change with the times, including a greater adoption of electronic and digital voting systems. These changes could have a dramatic impact on how the elections turn out.

The Rising Influence of Social Media
The 2008 US Presidential election proved that the Internet can be a huge source of support for candidates. Social media efforts by the then candidate Barack Obama are credited for a substantial part of his eventual victory. Four years have passed since then and social media is more prevalent than ever.

For instance, there is a new Facebook campaign that asks voters "What Matters Most." Here, voters can prioritize the three issues that they care about most and have these issues showcased in New York City's Times Square. Similarly, the growth of Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks will have a greater impact on how people choose their candidates.

The Expansion of E-Voting in Latin America
While electronic voting has already been used in countries like Venezuela and Mexico, e-voting systems will continue to expand throughout Central and South America in 2012. There will be more automated voting in places like Peru, for instance, as well as the implementation of automatic tallying in the Dominican Republic.

Similar changes are expected to take place in Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela and beyond. In the case of Paraguay, there is a push toward allowing citizens living abroad to vote remotely, a law that would lend itself to an e-voting paradigm over the Internet rather than through postal mail or via embassies.

E-Voting with iPads in United States
During a special election in November 2011, the state of Oregon allowed disabled voters to cast their ballots using a specially equipped Apple iPad. This is said to continue for 2012, paving the way for the use of even more technology as part of the electoral process. Oregon, among 10 other states in the USA, will also allow residents to register to vote online, rather than having to complete voter registration in person or by mail.

The electoral system in the United States is incredibly complicated, as each county determines its own way to conduct the vote. As such, e-voting takes place in some counties, but not in others, and even those that do participate in e-voting may use considerably different systems. For instance, Long Beach California city officials used RFID chips on ballot boxes to track their movement.

Electronic Voting Abroad
More e-voting is expected elsewhere too, with online voting being planned for Bridgewater, Nova Scotia in Canada. Electronic voting is being welcomed in Botswana, as well as other African states. Kenya has had e-voting for some time and Ghana is planning for e-voting by 2016. Belgium has signed a 10-year contract for automated voting as well.

The digital vote may still be somewhat disjointed in its application around the world, but the same can be said about more conventional ballots too. That said, technology continues to evolve, become more reliable, and offer greater security and accuracy than ever before.