Civil society organizations and pro-democracy movements based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) and around the world cried foul when the Congolese government announced plans to introduce electronic voting technology for use in the country’s upcoming elections scheduled for December 2018.* The combined volume of domestic and international attention toward the use of electronic voting machine technology in Congo ultimately reached Argentina, where it caught the attention of a network of technical experts and civil society activists familiar with the South Korean company at the heart of the controversy, Miru Systems Co. On the other side of the world, the Iraqi government ordered a recount of votes cast in May 2018 parliamentary elections, due at least in part to allegations of technical glitches in Miru-provided vote counting equipment.
Based on technical documents obtained by The Sentry, a review of publicly available images and videos, and lessons learned from Argentina’s own experiences with electronic voting, technical experts and security researchers identified significant similarities between the electronic voting technology currently proposed for implementation in Congo and models previously planned – and ultimately declined – for use in Argentina’s 2017 national elections. In addition, experts found specific security vulnerabilities in prototype machines Miru sold to Congo. These vulnerabilities include potential threats to ballot secrecy as well as results manipulation. Iraq’s current electoral dispute shows how glitches in unfamiliar technology can trigger contested election results.
Electronic voting technology thus threatens electoral transparency as well as the overall credibility of Congo’s electoral process.