The Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Chile have recently placed under public scrutiny the need to open space for e-voting as a solution for expat suffrage. Expats have been systematically excluded in many nations due to a lack of legislation regulating their political participation and to the difficulties implied by organizing elections outside of the country.
Voters abroad usually face difficulties to register and validate their condition of voters, mainly due to the requirement of legal residence from many countries in order to vote or for fear of revealing their migratory status. Besides, there are also quite a few technical and logistic obstacles that hinder the democratic exercise. Some of these are the reception of the wrong electoral material at the embassies and the location of polling stations—usually consulates or embassies—, which tend to be very far from where many citizens live.
In light of this reality, Chile began producing the regulations to enable its citizens living abroad to vote, initially at the primary presidential elections. Although new regulations are still pending approval, authorities have already announced that they are debating between implementing traditional paper-based suffrage or taking the leap toward on-site e-voting.
On the other hand, the Dominican Republic and Colombia have proposed the use of electoral technology for expat voting on political grounds. However, no matter the reason, proposals for the use of electoral technology bring up the need to stop and think the debate in terms of safeguarding the voters’ political rights abroad.
In the Dominican Republic, the Committee for Dominicans Abroad (Codex) demanded the implementation of the e-voting system for the 2016 presidential election. The demand is framed within Electoral Law 275-97, which establishes that the Central Electoral Board (JCE) will regulate the procedure and form of suffrage for the country’s citizens living abroad. This country already has the norm, and now it’s up for the authorities to assume its compliance and proceed to implement the technology.
The third country in this triad is Colombia. A few days ago, the Democratic Center Party filed a proposal for an electoral reform project, which introduces e-voting with document verification, i.e., using voting machines that can print paper receipts showing the selections made.
These countries can rest assured that e-voting for expats is possible. To name just a few examples of successful experiences, Switzerland and the Philippines have been able to guarantee electoral equality between those who reside within the national territory and those living abroad. This has been possible thanks to their automation models.