Colombia assesses the risks entailed by 2015 manual elections


elecciones colombia

Manual voting and pre-count have sparked doubts about the results of Colombian elections. Photo: http://www.elnuevoherald.com

2015 is a year with an important electoral calendar for Colombia. Local elections will be held in October (mayors and governors), and during the first half of the year political parties will hold their own internal polls. Furthermore, there is the possibility that a referendum for peace is held in case the Government and the FARC reach an agreement.

This foreseeable agenda will occupy a fair chunk of the year’s available time. In light of the challenge entailed by having to organize and execute elections without having to endure the ills that have affected recent electoral events, registrar Carlos Ariel Sánchez admitted there are risks such as transhumance (registering to vote in a place other than one’s residence) and excessive expenses in campaigns. However, he remained silent on serious issues such as void votes, pre-counting (initial results of purely informational nature, which often do not match the official count), double voting, or delays in the delivery of the final results.

Sánchez admitted that the implementation of an e-voting model in the country “is still pending”. Such a model should help the nation to overcome the distrust that has clouded some electoral processes. However, he pointed out that although the Registrar’s Office has the ability to implement the technology, it all depends on the Executive branch allocating a budget to it.

Colombia has a law that enables the automation of elections since 2004. In March 2012, an advisory commission was created for the implementation of e-voting, but this process has not progressed much since then. Although a call for bids was made internationally, and 16 companies applied to design a pilot test, the event still hasn’t been scheduled and resources have not yet been allocated to make viable the use of technology.

So far, two automated voting models have been approved for experimentation: Precinct-Count Optic Scan (PCOS), and Direct Recording Electronic (DRE). However, the nation is still postponing the debate that would help to overcome the system currently in use, which sometimes has worked for a manual presidential election, but which has proven to be unsuitable for more complex voting processes, such as this year’s local elections.

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