It will be many months before the polls open in El Salvador and the great web of the internet begins to receive votes remotely and electronically in person, as established by law. Concerns are more than justified.
The opening of online voting one month before the election date of 4 February 2024 is a cause for concern in El Salvador.
This can leave the system vulnerable to cyber-attacks and even modification of results by hackers, a view now being spread by Salvadoran computer experts.
El Salvador will hold general elections in 2024, in which votes will be cast for president, vice president, 84 deputies of the Legislative Assembly and 262 municipal councils, and 604,796 Salvadorans, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), who are already eligible, will be able to decide in an election in which the only known candidate so far, Nayib Bukele, could sweep.
Carlos Palomo, a computer technician and president of the Transparency and Open Data Association (Tracoda) warned of the dangers of opening the “electronic ballot boxes” a month in advance, which could leave the system vulnerable to cyber attacks and even modifications of results by hackers, he said.
It is up to the legislature to consider whether it is advisable to keep the system open for so long.
However, Article 16 of the Special Law on Voting Abroad requires that remote voting via the internet begins one month before the election date and according to other experts, the government must guarantee the cleanliness of the process by hiring reliable companies capable of advancing the contest.
Despite TSE magistrate Dora Martínez de Barahona’s assurances that companies will be contracted using criteria not only of transparency in accordance with the law but also of competence, concerns remain, especially when the opposition fears that their poor voter turnout will be compounded by monumental fraud. The law obliges them to have the voting system ready, including drills and tests, eight months before the elections, that is, in June 2023, she said.
The electoral register abroad is so far constituted by the Unique Identity Documents (DUIs) issued as determined by the Electoral Code, another element that is viewed with suspicion by the opposition given that they are a mechanism in the hands of the ruling party, Nuevas Ideas.
The list abroad for the 2024 elections will be the result of information submitted by the National Registry of Natural Persons (RNPN) and the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, bodies that are not independent of the government.
However, an independent firm will audit the voter data, but this firm will be contracted by the government itself, which is also a source of uncertainty and creates doubts about transparency and legality.
Magistrate Martínez stated that they are developing the necessary transparency and competence manuals to contract both the auditing firm and the company that will develop the electronic voting system.
(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay