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The Debate Over Electronic Voting in Argentina

6 2 11

Despite a setback in The Senate, the government is determined to push ahead with comprehensive electoral reform based on a new electronic voting system. The Indy consulted with a range of experts to analyse the debate.

Photo via votar.com.ar

On 24th November the opposition-controlled Argentine Senate blocked a vote on electoral reform that included the implementation of a new electronic voting system as proposed by President Mauricio Macri.

The government-sponsored bill had already been approved by the lower house of Congress in October, but the delay in the Senate means it will not be sanctioned before the end of the legislative year, and therefore not applicable for the mid-term elections in October 2017.

However, the government says it will continue to push for the reform, and the debate over the electronic voting system – known as the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE, in Spanish) – continues in Argentina, where it has already been deployed in the province of Salta and the city of Buenos Aires. Various forms of electronic voting are also currently present in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Estonia, India, the USA, and Switzerland, while other states such as Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands have abandoned it after a short period of use.

The argument for implementing it is that it will get rid of many problems with the current system, including instances of electoral fraud, and allow the votes to be counted faster. However, many experts are against it as they believe it creates more problems than it fixes and could even reduce the transparency of the vote. At a more fundamental level, critics also say that it takes the vote out of the citizens’ hands and places it firmly in the control of the government and the company developing the relevant software and hardware.

Voting is compulsory in Argentina for citizens over the age of 18. The exact voting system varies from province to province but the majority use multiple paper ballots. This means the voter enters a “dark room” where there are a number of ballots to choose from (or there should be). The voter takes the ballot of the candidate or party they wish to vote for, seals it in an envelope, and then puts into the ballot box.

The voting system is considered by many to be complicated and outdated: in primary elections, open and compulsory since 2011, voters can be asked to choose between dozens of party candidates for president, National Congress, and provincial legislatures. Critics also say it is vulnerable to tampering, particularly through the stealing of ballot papers, leaving voters in some areas unable to select certain parties.

Leandro Querido, director of Transparencia Electoral, an NGO which promotes democratic values in Argentina and Latin America, says that there are plenty of problems with the current system. He lists these as including “the stealing of ballots, manipulation of electoral documents, the dragging out of the release of the results, and fraudulent provincial elections.” He says the system also puts smaller parties at a disadvantage as they have fewer resources to print their own paper ballots and have their own observers to verify that they are being made available across all voting stations.

Querido claims that, as a result of these issues, many citizens perceived that their vote did not count.

Macri made electoral reform one of the key pledges of his 2015 presidential campaign, having already introduced the BUE system in the city of Buenos Aires as mayor and amid allegations of fraud in the gubernatorial election in Tucumán. The reform proposal was presented in June,........

© Argentina Independent