BA city scratches electronic voting for general elections

Authorities said they would use another system after an admonishment by a federal judge for the delays in the primaries

Voting in Argentina. Credit: Mariano Fuchila

Buenos Aires city authorities announced that they would not use the electronic voting machines to elect local authorities in the October 22 general elections, a decision that comes following a severe admonishment by federal judge María Servini for the significant delays during last Sunday’s primaries. The government will announce the system that will be used in the next few days.  

According to Télam news agency, sources from the city government say they are leaning towards voting with paper ballots but in a different ballot box than the one used for the national election. This means that BA city residents will use the same system the two times they vote in the October 22 general election, once for President, Vice President, national deputies and senators, and then for local authorities. Foreigners only have to vote for the latter. 

The decision comes on the heels of a harsh note federal judge María Servini sent to local and national election authorities on Thursday, pointing to the problems caused by the technical issues with the electronic voting machines. Servini called the August 13 primaries “the most problematic election of the last 30 years,” saying that the authorities would have to “rethink the voting process” and come up with an alternative that makes it easier for people to vote.

“To submit the citizenry to the degrading conditions in which they voted on August 13 again would be a mockery,” the judge noted.

Servini had already called attention to these problems while the primaries were taking place last Sunday, pointing to specific issues her team had verified in different locations across the city. While some machines didn’t work, other voting centers had them but were unable to get them running or test them. Interviewed by media outlets, BA city residents reported waiting between one and two hours in some voting centers.

Even though the decision to not to use electronic vote in October has already been made, the Electoral Management Institute (IGE, for its Spanish acronym), the city organ in charge of organizing elections, put out a statement defending its use following Servini’s letter. 

“We intend to work with judicial authorities in order to change the voting system for electing local authorities on October 22 […] The [electronic vote] is a valid system that showed its many benefits on the August 13 PASO elections, but following the judiciary’s decision, we are working on a new system,” said the press release.

“The delays [on Sunday] were due in some cases to the fact that there were two voting systems that day, in others, because voting authorities were delayed in opening their stations” 

According to the IGE, 251 voting machines had technical problems on Sunday. Of that total, 166 were fixed, while another 85 needed to be replaced, a task they say took no longer than 5 minutes to complete. “That’s 2% of the 14,000 machines that were in operation, which means that the difficulties of that day cannot be ascribed to this issue,” they wrote. 

In her note on Thursday, Servini included details of problems with 250 electronic voting machines.


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