President Mauricio Macri announced this morning he will send a bill to Congress aiming to make the national voting system more efficient and transparent. Many of you may remember the slew of issues that surfaced in last year’s elections: most notably, how gubernatorial elections in Tucumán Province back in September descended into chaos after ballot boxes were burned and thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest the inefficiency and general shadiness of the election.
What does the bill propose, then?
- An electronic ballot: The government intends on implementing a national electoral system by which voters would have to print their ticket out of machine that would register the information on a chip. Currently, each party has to print out and distribute its own ballots featuring all of its representatives, making some ballots reach 1 meter in length. This is not only a waste of paper, but also a pain for all voters, who have to either bring scissors to the “dark room” (the room where people vote) to cut up ballots if they want to mix and match different candidates from various parties. In addition, there’s nothing stopping a particularly vengeful voter from jamming an entire pile of ballots from an “enemy” party into his or her coat pocket and leaving the voting station, thus ensuring that subsequent voters can’t vote for candidates from a certain party since there are literally no ballots from that party left.
So the bill assures that under the new system, elections will be more transparent because chips will send the information to where the votes are tallied, making it more difficult for people to commit fraud. However, some people are skeptical about how trustworthy the technology involved can be. The electronic ballot is already in effect in the City of Buenos Aires and Salta and, according to Ámbito, Macri’s administration expects to implement it on a national level in 2017’s legislative elections.
- Preventing candidates from running for national and provincial office simultaneously.
- Mandatory presidential debates: The bill proposes to make it mandatory to have a presidential debate prior to voting time. Argentina had its first two presidential debates last year, before the general elections and before the runoff between Mauricio Macri and Daniel Scioli. Candidates, however, provided rather vague answers, so there’s room for improvement.
- An independent electoral council: This measure also seeks to improve transparency, since right now votes are counted by the National Electoral Chamber, which is monitered by the administration in power. An administration in charge of counting the votes for elections that they’re participating in? Maybe an independent entity would be a good idea.
- A smoother transition of power between the outgoing and incoming administrations: If you don’t remember the controversy between Mauricio Macri and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner over where the presidential sash and staff should be handed off that ended with Senate Vice President Federico Pinedo being President for 12 hours, you can read all about it here.