Fraud risk threatens electoral credibility in Colombia


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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.

Electoral scandal brings up need for e-voting in Argentina


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Tucumán gathered political actors around e-voting (Photo: puntoapartesanluis.com.ar)

Argentina’s presidentials are approaching, after a long and complex electoral calendar that is still riddled with problems.

From cancelled projects, detected flaws, allegations of fraud, and technical faults that occurred throughout several electoral events, the situation evolved into one of the country’s largest scandals in recent history: the August 23 elections in Tucumán had to be annulled due to fraud, only to have this decision revoked by the province’s high court.

The Supreme Court is expected to solve the controversy, but this touchy episode has become a tipping point for Argentina’s electoral system. Numerous voices have come together in support of e-voting, stressing the problems that manual voting has brought upon the country.

Currently, provinces like Salta and Buenos Aires are using a model that enables automated tallying. However, although this technology has performed acceptably, it also reveals faults that make it insufficient to safeguard the people’s intent from human error or electoral fraud.

The Radical Civil Union (UCR) is one of the entities championing electoral automation. They have stated: “in light of the recent irregularities seen in local and national elections, this change is urgent, and its goal is to provide the transparency and efficiency for the most important act in modern democracy: elections.”

Buenos Aires deputy and candidate to the Chivilcoy intendency, Guillermo Britos, requested to “advance with e-voting, which will give more transparency and modernity to the democratic system”, while criticizing the fact that “they still vote with a seven-part ballot.” Meanwhile, the Neuquén candidate to the Confluence Council, Néstor Burgos, supported the use of e-voting and invited the electorate “not to be afraid” of electronic ballots.

Senator Danilo Capitani joined the debate insisting on a law facilitating automation. “New technologies can and must be an essential tool to provide transparency and improve citizen participation in the fundamental act of democracy,” he stated.

There is also pressure from the academic arena to stop using ballots and modernize voting. Armando de Giusti, professor at UNLP and main researcher for CONICET, pointed out that “after the current electoral process is finished, we must analyze the use of technological resources in the elections in Argentina.”

With this ongoing discussion, the country must take this bad experience and turn it into an opportunity to safeguard Argentinian vote, including against those who strive to cheat the will of the people. By joining forces around e-voting, political actors seem to have begun to understand this.