The vulnerability of Colombia’s manual voting system

The National Registry of Civil Records, the Election Observation Mission and other Colombian organizations have highlighted the vulnerability of the Colombian electoral system against different types of fraud. The main cause for the fragility of the system is the manual nature of the various processes involved in the identification of voters, and in the information transfer process. The recorded vote on the ballot goes through a series of manual processes that includes filling out dozens of physical forms, the presence of unskilled judges, typists and telephone operators who transmit through their voice, the results to be consolidated.

Each manual step exposes the system to fraudulent modifications or human errors that impact the final vote. The National Registry has identified these flaws. In fact, in 2009, this entity constructed a risk map of vote fraud based on historical data that described the system’s failures. The data recollected is scary. In the elections of 2006, there where found differences between the form 31 092 E-11 and E-24. Lets remember that in the E-11 form the voters are registered (where the voter signs when he or she votes) and the E-24 form consolidates the data. These differences suggest that “there were more votes than voters in 620 tables of 150 municipalities.” This means that somewhere in the manual chain – in the passing of form to form-appeared magically new votes for one candidate.

The vulnerability of the manual system is so obvious, and its vital points are so fragile, you do not need to be a very sophisticated criminal to modify the results of an election. Indeed, many of the frauds are possible thanks to the use of archaic procedures, and the lack of technological devices that can reduce the system’s vulnerability.

To correct the electoral system is not enough to turn the polls into multikeys, train judges in basic arithmetic or include more clauses to the Electoral Code. To avoid the risks, it is needed to modernize the system. We have to automate processes, include biometric mechanisms to control the impersonation of voters and streamline the collection of data without the intervention of many people.


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