Fraud risk threatens electoral credibility in Colombia


elecciones-en-2014

Colombia has a manual voting system that is prone to fraud, according to experts (Photo: http://www.elpais.com.co)

A few days before the regional elections in Colombia—scheduled for October 25—, all sectors are denouncing the risk of fraud in this electoral event. Old and new vices are mixing together to jeopardize institutional credibility and the system’s safety.

The most recent fraud allegation was revealed by the National Electoral Council (CNE) when it voided 1,605,099 identity cards to mitigate the risk of election transhumance, (when people register in a juristidction different from the one they are supposed to belong). The decision was made only 20 days before the elections.

La Vanguardia, one of the country’s top newspapers, used this issue to publish an editorial with a long list of fraudulent actions electoral events are subject to, including political violence, manipulation at the time of ID card registration, delays in the delivery of electoral documents, irregular management of electoral sheets, deceit in blank vote sheets, unmarked ballots reassigned to certain candidates, adulteration of tally minutes, pre-counts, and delays in the delivery of results.

The journal mentioned that regarding “the degradation of elections,” the country’s Deputy Attorney General stated that “there is no town in Colombia where there is no suspicion.”

Semana magazine also made a program where voices from all trends and sectors came together around a single question: Why is it still so difficult to do honest politics in Colombia? Eloy Quintero, chamber representative, said that “something is wrong, and the big necessary reforms are not taking place. These issues are not being brought up at Congress.”

Reports from the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) warn that electoral transparency in 487 municipalities—out of 1,101 jurisdictions in Colombia—is at risk, so almost half of the country’s districts are at risk of fraud.

EOM director, Alejandra Barrios, pointed out that “rather than violence-related issues, which are still occurring in some regions of the country, (…) corruption and the attempts from candidates or campaigns not to follow the rules of the game are generating a larger risk.” According to this organization, the possibility of fraud rose from 328 municipalities in 2007 to 487 in 2015.

Thus, Colombians will head to the polls under a general state of suspicion that will complicate elections that were already difficult to begin with. 113,426 candidates are expected to participate, competing for 32 departmental governments, more than a thousand mayor’s offices, and hundreds of positions in councils, departmental assemblies, and administrative boards.

The country has acknowledged the problems of its manual voting model, and in March 2012, an advisory commission was created for the implementation of e-voting, which has already been regulated. However, it is still not taking action toward the solution offered by technology. Unfortunately, time is running out.

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