Electronic Voting Gains Political Will in Colombia

The fight that Colombia has led for years over the implementation of electronic voting seems to be close to a successful goal. Colombia has come a long way, and the trials faced prove it. There has been a lack of political will, a very necessary aspect when making governmental decisions. However, it seems that the Colombian Government has begun to understand, little by little, the advantages of voting automation.

Recently, the first forum on electronic voting was held at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (at its Bucaramanga campus) by an initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Important aspects of the statutory law were discussed, as it is expected to be applied in said voting system.

During the discussions held in this activity, scholars, governors, congressmen, magistrates and even the head of the National Registry of the Civil State, Carlos Ariel Sánchez Torres, agreed about the urgency and need to change the Electoral Code.

Experts, congressmen, and the Colombian Government back up the need for e-voting. Source: http://www.solucionpolitica.net

The implementation of electronic voting contemplates biometric identification (fingerprint scan system), electoral registry, and a reform to the candidates’ inability regime, among others.

Senator Juan Manuel Galán Pachón has fought for this initiative, and has reaffirmed that the goal is for Congress elections in 2014 to be carried out with automated voting.

The National Registrar also celebrated the advantages of automation. He insisted that counting will be easier with e-voting, and therefore the results will be more reliable.

During the forum, the advantages of electronic voting were highlighted, among them: faster and more reliable results that will diminish the margin of error or human manipulation; reduction of crimes such as identity theft and ballot stuffing through biometric identification. W Radio interviewed Minister of Internal Affairs Germán Vargas Lleras. You can hear his opinions (in Spanish) here: 1642993.mp3

Participants in the discussion pointed out that the government will have to make an investment rounding 500 million dollars, but highlighted the long term future savings they would obtain.

The new Colombian electoral code would involve a new system to elect jury, which will be chosen randomly.  It also contemplates the modification of the ineligibility compliance regimen, so that there can be clarity as to whom cannot be chosen before the elections.

Furthermore, there is a proposal for the complete removal of political advertisements the day before elections. The new code would contemplate sanctions to transgressing candidates. Another important aspect is the extension of the Election Day calendar, so that it can go from 7:00am to 5:00pm. Under the actual legislation, polling locations close at 4:00pm, regardless of whether there are still voters in line or not.


Belgium Looks Into the Future and Retakes Electronic Voting

Smartmatic equipment will debut in Belgium very soon.

Belgium comes back, and comes back big. This sentence encloses the process that this European country went through, since being the e-voting pioneer,and having to step back after a lack of disposition to modernize its systems. However, after two years of submitting a request for proposal for a new automation system, a new era of high-tech voting for this nation was announced.

Looking back, Belgium was already experimenting with voting machines even before the 1990s. A complex electoral system―compulsory suffrage, three official languages (Dutch, German, French) and simultaneous elections― forced the authorities to automate the voting process. Thus elapsed almost two decades. However, the governments’ poor foresight to guarantee that the model would be updated led to its temporary suspension.

These hard times made way for an international search of new electoral technologies, and a very demanding request for proposal process began in 2010. It included a request for the development of a special prototype, diverse certifications and a pilot test, which ended last month when the Federal Public Service announced that it would use the voting system designed by Smartmatic during the next 15 years.

Belgium’s return to e-voting implies adapting the technology that Smartmatic has tested in many countries of the world (Philippines, USA, Venezuela) to its own needs, characteristics and laws. This technology is based on an electronic voting machine with touch screen, capable of printing a voter receipt for eventual audits of the results. The implementation will be progressive and will begin in the Flanders and Brussels regions.

From a system that was based on the delivery of a magnetic card that the voter introduced on a machine in order to activate the ballot,and use an optical pencil to make the selection, Belgians will now delve into the most advanced technology to elect their authorities. In Venezuela, for example, Smartmatic provides the SAES-4200, a next-generation touch screen machine featuring extensions for electronic ballots, different security levels, an integrated printer (for vote counting and auditing) and a module specially designed for people with disabilities. Besides, they are capable of counting, tallying, and transmitting the results.

The step taken by Belgium proves that e-voting cannot be stopped, because compared to the erratic functionality of manual voting, the most advanced electoral technology, capable of adjusting to each country’s necessities is the one that offers almost endless possibilities to support the universal qualities of voting, secrecy, reliability, transparency with fast and safe results.