The peace that Colombia seems to be reaching demands not only a nationwide commitment, but also deep institutional changes that include the voting system.
In order to execute such a task, the Government has taken its first steps by installing the Special Electoral Mission, conceived to generate advice and turn the ship around on the old and questioned Colombian voting model.
President Juan Manuel Santos formalized the start of operations for the team, as part of fulfilling point number two of the peace agreement signed last November between the Government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
This section refers to the “expansion” of democracy by means of “a greater transparency of the electoral system, which requires a series of immediate measures, especially in the regions where risks and threats persist, as well as an integral revision of the electoral regime, and of the make up and functions of the electoral authorities”.
The Colombian leader stated that this Mission will have three months, expiring in April, to craft “recommendations about the necessary adjustments of the norms and institutions to guarantee greater autonomy and independence of the electoral organization, as well as modernizing and increasing the transparency of the electoral system”.
Given the discredit the current voting model (manual voting with a pre-count) has in the nation, the parts delegated to external and independent entities the design of what could be the future Colombian electoral system, as well as recovering the credibility of the electoral organisms.
Specifically, six out of the seven members of the Mission were selected by the Carter Center, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and the political science departments of the National and Los Andes universities in Colombia; the last spot was granted to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), a local NGO.
With this measure, the country breaks the silence it had kept since 2015 on the modernization of its voting system. Until that date, there had been intermittent work with an advisory commission for the implementation of technology; there was even an international convocation that was attended by 16 companies, meant to carry a pilot test for automated voting.
Despite these efforts, the Colombian initiative to reform voting has been stalled in several occasions. We hope this new momentum the country has found ends in the enforcement of the Law, which states that voting automation is mandatory, and with a system that has risked the will of the people far too many times being left behind.