With Colombia’s October 2011 local elections approaching, bodies involved in the electoral process held a forum to discuss technological solutions to voter fraud, newspaper El Espectador reported Tuesday.
The deadline for implementing electronic voting systems in Colombia is 2014. Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras said he agrees with the technological improvement in the voting system but said that “the electronic vote has little importance where illegal groups are trying to take on a political project.”
The minister said that voter fraud had been recorded in over 300 towns and that the government has recently been informed about illegal armed groups pressuring voters.
Vargas said that he is holding consultations with political parties with the intention of bringing a comprehensive reform of the electoral code to Congress. “We have not given up this possibility. It has been tried five times and nothing has come to fruition,” said Vargas.
The President of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Juan Pablo Cepero warned that the problem of impersonation has been severe and will continue to get worse. Despite a recent measure to put fingerprints on the voter cards, there were cases in which the fingerprints were poorly done.
“People already know how to defeat this measure,” Cepero said.
The official’s suggestion is to adopt a biometric voting system, which recognizes individuals based on unique characteristics such as fingerprints, facial geometry, retina patterns or voice patterns to prevent voter impersonation.
National Registrar Carlos Ariel Sanchez said that he too favored the biometric voting system over an electronic one.
“I think the debate is open and it is inconceivable that it could not be a reality in 2014,” Ariel Sanchez said.
Former Interior and Justice Minister Carlos Holguin recalled that the vote in the Valle de Cauca grew by 800% and the CNE never discovered the reason for the exaggerated increase in the number of voters. “Hopefully these situations can be overcome with biometric identification,” he said.
The director of the Americas Program of the Carter Center Jennifer McCo concluded that some voting problems in Colombia, such as the interference of armed groups, have no technological solution. But, she added, when adopting a modern voting system, the most important thing is to have a good method to educate voters.
The Colombian electoral process has historically been impeded by issues including buying votes, threatening voters, voting on behalf of the deceased and by those who commit these crimes enjoying impunity.