Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A new botched attempt to modernize elections in Dominican Republic

Election authorities in Dominican Republic failed once again to modernize its elections through technology. This time around the problems surfaced during the municipal elections held on February 16, 2020. 

Only four hours after polls opened, the Junta Central Electoral, the Dominican electoral body, realized that something was wrong with the voting machines. Julio Cesar Castanos, president of the Junta Central, acknowledged that nearly half of the voting machines did not work, leaving citizens unable to cast their votes. 

One day before the election, officials had been warned of a problem with the technology, yet, they thought it could be fixed. “We were warned, but not of the magnitude of the problem,” Mr. Castanos Guzman said. “They told us it was an issue that could be fixed the second the machines were installed.”

The automated voting system was deployed in 18 of the 158 municipalities and focused on cities and regions with high population density. Traditional voting was used elsewhere. 

This major mishap should not come as a surprise. In a video that leaked after the suspension of the elections, Guzman admitted that they had not done sufficient testing ahead of the election. Also, in 2016, the Junta Central Electoral failed its attempt to automate the voter authentication process. Although the electronic poll books did not work, authorities managed to complete the election that time. 

Although there are many reasons why this municipal election failed, one that cannot be overlooked is the fact that authorities dared to develop the system themselves with the help of providers that had zero election expertise. Instead of relying on expert companies and technology that is already available, they insisted on creating their own. Their lack of experience is now bare naked.