Election automation has come under public scrutiny once again in Colombia as many of the candidates aspiring to become the new head of the Registrar’s Office have agreed that e-voting is a must.
Delegate Registrar Alfonso Portela, who is competing for the Registrar’s position with seven other candidates, believes that, despite the slow progress made in recent years, the changes introduced by the Registrar’s Office (effective census, use of biometrics) are bringing the country closer to automation. He says the Office “is working on incorporating it so that it becomes an adequate solution.” Portela has made an effort to push the debate toward e-voting. Guillermo Reyes, former Minister of Justice and former magistrate of the National Electoral Council (CNE), finds that resuming the automation of the electoral process is “vital, (…) as is the procurement of funds for e-voting pilot plans.” Néstor Iván Osuna, former magistrate says he “would continue to delve into the modernization of democracy.”
These statements reflect the fact that Colombia has been taking slow but steady steps toward e-voting since March 2012. An advisory commission was even created to push for the modernization of elections. However, this multidisciplinary group has not met since it launched an international call for bids for an automated voting pilot test over a year ago. 16 companies responded to this call.
While the debate unfolds, Colombia will have to use the system that has caused so many inconveniences in past elections –regional and local elections are scheduled for October 25. That is: partial use of biometric authentication of voters, manual voting, unofficial results via exit polls, and the digitization of count reports to be published on the Registrar’s Office’s website. This scheme is not contemplated under the 2004 law that already enables vote automation. The current Registrar has admitted repeatedly that the implementation of an e-voting model in the country “is still pending.” E-voting should help the nation overcome the distrust pervading some electoral processes.
The convergence of the upcoming local elections and the debate about e-voting brought by the race for the Registrar’s Office, seems to be forcing Colombia to move towards more secure and transparent elections.