Last Sunday, August 13, the Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory Primary Elections were held in Argentina. Beyond the results, a controversial issue was the functioning of the electronic voting system, which has already accumulated more than 20 complaints.
What are the PASO Elections?
The PASO Elections, or Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory Primary Elections, are a democratic process that determines the selection of people who will make up the list of each political force for the following general elections.
On this occasion, the government of Buenos Aires decided that there would be “concurrent” elections, that is to say, that on the same day national and local authorities would be voted for, but with different systems.
For local offices, the Single Electronic Ballot (BUE) was used, a system where the voter receives a ballot that he/she must introduce in a machine to mark his/her preferences, then he/she must remove the paper and deposit it in the ballot box. It should be noted that the first experience of the citizens of Buenos Aires with this mechanism dates back to 2015.
What was the controversy?
During the course of the voting, there were several criticisms to the implementation of the Single Electronic Ballot and even some presidential pre-candidates referred to the failures in the system.
In some voting centers, the process was extended for more than an hour due to long lines caused, apparently, by the malfunction of some machines.
The federal judge responsible for the control of the presidential elections, Maria Servini, was one of the main authorities who questioned and harshly criticized the voting system.
“The degree of improvisation with which both the company contracted for the provision and installation of the voting machines and the Institute of Electoral Management of the City of Buenos Aires itself have been handled is worrying, evidencing a lack of expertise never seen before in the organization and execution of an electoral process”, Servini said in a notification sent to the magistrate in charge of the National Electoral Chamber.
It also mentioned that a total of 240 machines were not working properly, which represents 2.4% of the total. However, the government of Buenos Aires quickly denied this information, mentioning that only 87 machines presented problems and they were corrected during the course of the morning.
The most critical moment of the day was when the presidential pre-candidate, Patricia Bullrich, had serious problems when voting through the BUE and took more than 20 minutes to deposit her preferences in the ballot box.
Bullrich took advantage of the journalists present and recounted her experience with the Electronic Ballot, calling it a “disaster” and alluding that she tried to vote more than seven times. Finally, the PRO pre-candidate was able to exercise her right when they changed the machine.
“I voted seven times, two technicians came. And after trying to vote seven times, a very strange thing happened to me: I voted a list and I got another one different from the one I did not want to vote for and the machine did not print either, so I had to wait”, explained Bullrich.
After the impasse, all eyes were focused on Magic Software Argentina (MSA), the company in charge of the implementation of the Single Electronic Ballot, which was awarded the bidding for the process for about 29 million dollars.
During the election and in the hours that followed, the Buenos Aires electoral prosecutor’s office received 22 complaints regarding electronic voting, with 15 of these pointing directly to problems related to the machines provided by MSA.
The above-mentioned Judge María Servini was not slow to hold the company responsible either, questioning whether they were really prepared to host such an election.
“Everything is negative regarding the electronic ballot boxes. They may have worked well in Salta, but there are 800 thousand people who vote, here there are more than 2 million”, said the magistrate.
Given this, it was Servini herself who proposed separating the Buenos Aires elections from the national elections in October. This could be done in different places or by choosing another date.
Besides the judge, there were different authorities who referred to the issue. One of them was Jorge Macri, the winner of the PASO of Buenos Aires in the internal of Together for Change Party, who emphasized that the voting system for October must be rethought.
In the same line, the Electoral Management Institute of the city, through a release, stated and informed that for the next process they will work on “reconfiguring the voting system”.
In any case, there is no total clarity regarding the situation that occurred with the voting machines and what was the real impact it had on the elections. It is hasty to draw conclusions with the data that is being handled and without having a vision of the company in question.