Colombia defines coordinates for e-voting pilot


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Colombia will carry out an electoral automation pilot to show the country the advantages of electronic voting. Photo: Registrar’s Office

More constituencies, two models of electronic voting, and the scheduling of a date before March 2014 summarize the new coordinates of the pilot test that Colombia will be carrying out to show the country the advantages of electoral automation.

The suspension of the Colombian political parties’ internal referendum, originally scheduled for September 29th and expected to be the event where e-voting would be deployed, forced the country to rethink the experience. However, the Registrar’s Office did not falter, and together with the advisory commission it completed the technical report that will be taken to the Executive branch so that resources will be allocated for Colombia to advance toward a modern and safe electoral system.

Far from turning into an obstacle, this delay brought improvements to the electoral journey. The authorities decided to raise the number of constituencies to be automated from 33 to 93 schools. This way, a larger group of districts and a larger electoral roll will experiment with the two e-voting models that will be tested.

Colombia seeks to subject the performance of two types of e-voting to public scrutiny. The first type is based on PCOS technology (precinct count optical scan), which is basically the use of a ballot box equipped with a reader or scanner to identify each ballot and process votes in order to tally them automatically. The equipment must also be able to print a vote receipt on paper.

The second option is the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, which is based on the use of touchscreen devices that enable suffrage, vote storage, and their tally and transmission to a computing center. This kind of equipment also has the capacity to emit paper receipts of the ballot cast by each voter.

The Registrar’s Office will be responsible for deciding which of these two technologies will be used in Colombia over the next months. Besides, it will make sure that the machines are subjected to extreme situations such as power outages and connectivity problems in order to sustain the selection of the technology that will automate the electoral system in the future.

Moreover, there was an agreement that the test will be carried out before the March 2014 legislative elections, as the institution’s intention is to comply with Law 1475 of 2011, which stipulates the fulfillment of an e-voting pilot before these elections.

Colombia has had to overcome many barriers to reach the definitive step towards the implementation of e-voting. A lack of resources, political resistance, and lack of trust may have hindered automation for years, but for this nation, never stopping has been the key to success.

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