Identity theft has been one of the crimes that have mostly tainted Colombia’s electoral system. The illegal actions of voting on behalf of someone else and voting more than once have altered results and taken to court an issue that should have been stayed in the sociopolitical realm. In order to stop these irregular actions, Colombia made biometric identification (fingerprint scanning) a legal obligation in 2011.
Last July 14th, the city of Cartagena became the 37th constituency to use biometric identification to guarantee the premise: one voter, one vote, during the city’s mayoral election. So far, more than five million fingerprints have been processed, and the Registrar’s Office is working to have the complete registry in its database.
Cartagena deployed devices capable of scanning each voter’s fingerprint before exerting suffrage in order to compare it to the one stored by the electoral body. This was a process that took 2 to 3 seconds per voter and guaranteed that only the 683,166 citizens registered to vote approached the ballot boxes.
Parallel to the formal voting event, the Registrar’s Office launched the Infovotante plan, a mechanism that allows authenticating voters (this is non-binding to the electoral process). The process is based on explaining how biometric identification works, scanning fingerprints and informing about the benefits of this kind of electoral technology.
Thomas Greg & Sons and Carvajal were the companies in charge of the pilot test. The first one used a biometric authentication device that also prints a sticker to be used by polling station officers on the voter lists. The second one carried out a similar process, but with a machine that prints paper receipts.
With the Infovotante plan, Colombia does not settle with the equipment that is actually used—instead it seeks to keep improving the implementation of electoral biometrics and extend it to the whole nation. The country knows that protecting the identity of voters is tantamount to protecting the vote.