Automatization of Elections – the Artificial Born Losers

Smartmatic Election Machines.

As the (first automatized) elections here in the Philippines come closer, I would like to devote another article to automatized elections. Having written about the topic in general, I would like to focus now on the outcome of having automatized elections.

Outcome 1: Everything processes well, no incidents happen. Voting machines transmit the ‘correct’ results in time and can show the elected president within one or two days. If the results will be close (and the likelyhood is very high), losing candidates will claim that is was the fault of the voting machines. That is why some presidents started two weeks ago to announce that the voting machines should not be trusted – in order to prepare the field for the case that they lose.

Outcome 2: Some voting machines have to be replaced with one of the few spare machines, batteries have to be used in events of power surges and brown outs, satellite uplinks have to be used due to jamming or the lack of signal in remote places. However, the ‘correct’ results will be transmitted in one or two days. Again, the losers will claim that the automatized elections failed and that is why they lost. Compared to outcome 1, they will have more support by the public caused by all the incidents happened (even though not one of them effected or changed the outcome, due to good preparations).

Outcome 3: Too many incidents happen (see outcome 2), so that some places have to switch to manual counting, using the ballots. Subsequently, some places will be able to transmit the ‘correct’ results in time. For some it will take more days. These places then are target of groups which want to change the results, given the time they have due to manual counting. Different levels of legitimacy will apply. High levels for those places which submitted the results electronically, lower levels for places where incidents happened, manually counting was put in place and groups try to get grip on the results. Confusion arouses if a mayor from a electronically elected region/ city has a higher legitimacy compared to someone where the machines did not work. Enemies will point on these events, arguing that the winner manipulated the machines in order to force COMELEC to apply manually counting. Losers will start to come up with confusing calculations that they would have won if in region A and city B the machines would have worked and accordingly they would have won.

Outcome 4: The majority of voting machines fail due to one or another reason. Manually counting will be adapted in these places. Influential groups try to get grip on changing the results, because of the time between the voting and the actual transmission of the results. Standard bearers will start to argue with each other who is responsible for these incidents, groups and people will be blamed. People will lose trust in the candidates and the ‘winner’ will have to cope with legitimacy issues due to all of these events.

Outcome 5: Automatized elections will fail completely or to such a large degree that COMELEC decides to use the manual ballots in every place. Counting will take one or two weeks. Influential groups will try to change the results. Elections will be regarded as what they have been all the times before. The guy from COMELEC who was on the television will be unemployed. Voting machines will be abandoned or perhaps re-used in three years for the local elections. More money will be given to the foreign company, producing these machines in order to deliver upgraded products.

Outcome 6: The voting machines work well, obviously. Some of them (or more) will be hacked in a way that it is not noticed. Results will be changed. From a theoretical point of view, the elected representatives do not represent the majority of the voters. In practice, no one will know and subsequently worry about it. As in outcome 1, some of the losers will pinpoint hacking or other things in order to let the elections appear unfair. Due to the lack of evidence, it will be regarded as a story of success – especially for those who hacked these machines in their favor.

Taking into account the money that has been spent for these machines and linking it to the possible outcomes, I have to say that voting machines will lose either way. Information and communication technologies are great tools but they are not almighty. One should never forget that there are issues which cannot or should not be facilitated by the use of ICTs.

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