Colombia and Panama Take Firm Steps Toward Automation

Colombia adds up years of elections marred by vice and irregularities and has decided to migrate from manual to electronic voting by 2014.

Latin America, always regarded by the First World as a region that sets few examples for the developed nations, has an enormous advantage over numerous countries in terms of elections. Venezuela and Brazil sum up many years of successful 100% automated elections, and more and more countries are joining the era of e-voting.

Walking that path to modernization, Colombia and Panama will take firm steps to automate their electoral systems. The effort made by the first includes an e-voting exhibition that will take place on May 16, where the most renowned e-voting companies in the world will meet.

According to the Colombian National Registry, at least 25 e-voting providers will show the authorities and political actors the advantages of automation for Colombia to consider purchasing some of these technologies. Thus, the country would achieve two goals: to carry out its internal party elections during the second semester of this year, and to set up the first drill for the implementation of automated suffrage in 2014.

Companies like Smartmatic, Scytl and Indra will show the attendants a simulation of electronic voting for electoral authorities to be able to evaluate which technology adapts to Colombian laws and electoral system. This country has planned for one polling station in every constituency within its 32 provinces to carry out an e-voting pilot test. The intention is that urban and rural areas will both participate in the test, thus verifying the performance of the system in the different electoral areas of the nation.

In 2011, Panama used e-voting for the first time in an indigenous region.

Even though the showcase that will take place in Colombia will be oriented to diverse e-voting technologies, this nation aspires to modernize all the stages of the system: automation of the territorial regulation plan, ID registration, selection of electoral board, candidate registration, biometric identification, voting and transmission of results.

Just like Colombia, Panama keeps working to give its citizens a modern and safe electoral system. This month, the Electoral Court released the General Election Plan (PLAGEL), which not only contemplates the reengineering of polling stations —in order to alleviate traffic on the polling stations—, but also added that in 2014, when general elections take place, e-voting will be implemented in multi-member circuits.

Until now, authorities have only stated that automation will be done in a reduced way, since the process will take place periodically. However, it is worth mentioning that Panama joined the Latin American elite with automated elections last year, when it became an example of inclusion for the region and the world by choosing an indigenous region as the first place to use electoral technology to vote.

Both Colombia and Panama will advance in 2012 in the comparative study of technologies to modernize their suffrage, leaving behind the era when faults and flaws typical of manual voting marred electoral processes, and thus leading the use of e-voting as the tool that guarantees safe, fair, and quick elections.


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