In less than three months, Colombia will take a decisive step towards automation by carrying out a pilot test whose purpose is to bring up the possibilities technology provides to facilitate the execution of safe, fast, and transparent elections.
The E-voting Advisory Commission has worked nonstop to outline the path the nation will follow towards the selection of a model that represents the advantages of automation and adapts to the legal requirements and characteristics of Colombian suffrage.
To this end, an international tender call was made, which was attended by 16 companies specializing in offering the two types of technology that Colombia wants to test out.
One of them is called PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan), which is based on the use of a ballot box with a scanner that identifies ballots and processes votes in order to count them automatically.
The second option is the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, which consists in the use of touchscreen machines that enable voting, vote storage, and their tallying and transmission to a data center. These devices must also have the capacity to emit physical receipts of the selections made by the voters.
Based on this requirement, more than a dozen companies from Colombia and abroad signed up to be elegible to deploy their technology on January 31st, 2014 in the 93 electoral constituencies from the 30 provinces chosen to star on the e-voting pilot test.
The 16 companies are: Gerencia Ieconsultores, Smartmatic, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Popayán, Dominion Voting, Technology Supplier, Arolén, Sio, Avante International Technology y ID Systems, Scytl, Thomas Greg & Sons Limited (Guernsey), 3M, Colvista, Gestión Informática, Grupo ASD, DPS Data Processing & Systems, Voting Solutions Colombia, and Certicámara
Starting now, the Registrar’s Office will be in charge of studying the financial proposal that was requested from the companies and evaluating which of them meet the requirements, which range from adapting the technology and machines to rural areas that can present connectivity problems and blackouts and having mechanisms to facilitate voting to citizens with disabilities, to generating software that enables the scrutiny, tallying, and transmission of results, electoral data encryption, and auditability of all the stages of the process.
The task Colombia is undertaking could free the country from long and tense discussions, as the performance of the chosen technologies will allow discerning what system the nation needs for the future. The decision made is to end the delay in presenting election results, which damages the credibility of authorities and institutions, and also to stop the occurrence of fraud such as double voting, which has marred the elections for decades.