Thursday, October 4, 2012

Belgium makes a new bet on e-voting

Image: European Journalism Centre
Since the 1990s, Belgium has been incorporating technology to its elections to guarantee greater levels of efficiency. Together with Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, and France, Belgium tried different companies which offered an array of technologies. After poor performances by the deficient technology available at the time, and irresponsible providers willing to make business at the expense of authorities' genuine desire to improve election administration, most of the aforementioned nations went back to the old paper ballot and pencils that, although inefficient, kept electoral watchdog groups calmed.
However, Belgium insisted with the automation, and after a rigorous bidding process, a certification by independent agency PricewaterhouseCoopers of the solution in hand, and an actual field test with real voters trying the proposed solution, the nation announced, in November 2011, the signing of a contract with Smartmatic to automate the elections for the next fifteen years.

The new voting platform will be used for the first time during the October 14, 2012 provincial and municipal elections. Approximately three million voters from 155 cities and communes of Brussels and Flanders will express their opinion using 17,400 Voting Machines deployed in 3,346 polling stations. These voting machines are part of a voting platform designed by Smartmatic under the specific directions of the Belgium electoral authorities. Besides the voting machines, it includes, 3,700 President Machines which serve as the information source of ballot definition, and accumulator for consolidating results, 3,700 electronic ballot boxes, and 17,300 Smart Cards.

A commitment for 15 years is certainly a sign of the confidence Belgium has on the solution it created together with Smartmatic. The company, which also automates election in Venezuela, the Philippines, and provides services to Brazil, and other countries, has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to demonstrate its ability to customize solutions while guaranteeing the levels of transparency and accuracy citizens deserve.

We will soon see if e-voting manages to make its way through this time around.