Demand for audit of election computer systems stirs controversy and could affect runoff schedule

Feb 23, 2021 | 7 comments

The demands by the attorney general’s and state comptroller’s office to examine the computer system used in the February 7 election has set off a firestorm with the National Electoral Council (CNE) and presidential candidates. The order for the audit is the result of complaints by Pachakutik presidential candidate Yaku Pérez who claims that vote-counting fraud was committed in several provinces.

Ecuador Comptroller Pablo Celi, center

In the official election results released Sunday by the CNE, Pérez trails Guillermo Lasso by 32,000 votes. Pending challenges, Lasso will face Andrés Arauz in an April 11 runoff.

Diana Atamaint, CNE president reacted angrily to the demand for a computer review, claiming that Ecuador’s Democracy Code prohibits the interference of other agencies or institutions during the election process and says the review could affect the schedule of the presidential runoff. She also that Pérez can challenge results through existing channels under existing rules.

Legal experts consulted on the issue were divided on the legality of the order.

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Comptroller Pablo Celi insists his audit will not affect the runoff schedule and does not interfere with the election process. “I understand that the date of the second election is established by law and the review will not affect that. Our process will be completed in 20 days and is intended for the purpose of establishing an atmosphere of trust in the electoral process.”

Celi says that the claims of “irregularities and possible fraud” during the election made by Pérez show sufficient evidence to proceed with the review. “I have no idea what we will find in our examination. My office is of the belief that there are grounds for an audit of the systems used to compile the voting.”

National Court of Justice Judge Luis Rivera authorized the comptroller and attorney general’s request Saturday night, ordering CNE to turn over “databases, servers and computers” used in February 11 voting.

The presidential candidates have also joined the controversy with Andrés Arauz siding with the CNE that election officials should be able to proceed with the election without outside legal challenge. “This is an 11th hour demand that has no basis in law and could be used to delay or stop the runoff election,” he says. “It is an outrageous and unprecedented act to bring confusion to an election that all observers say was fair and transparent.”

Three teams of international election watchers have concluded that the election was fair.

Lasso does not object to the review but expressed no opinion on its legality.

Atamaint was out of her office on Monday and did say when or if she would comply with the order or whether she would appeal to the Constitutional Court.

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