''Electronic voting is an irreversible tendency''

Bogota, February 21st 2011.- On February 16, the forum ''Elections: from paper to the digital age'' took place in Bogota organized by Semana magazine. Its purpose was to debate the most current positions on voting automation, in the framework of the upcoming electoral reform in Colombia and under the assumption that an automated system will be the norm for the 2014 presidential elections, as stated by the Colombian Minister of the Interior and Justice Germán Vargas Lleras. 

According to Eduardo Correia, Vice-president of Smartmatic's Electoral Unit and a guest speaker at the forum, ''automated voting systems stem from the idea of guaranteeing that election results be determined exclusively by the voters' will. Based on the number of successful previous experiences in Brazil, the Philippines and India for over 10 years' processes which not only have been well executed but also well received by the electorate we can affirm that automation in general, and electronic voting in particular, are two definitely irreversible tendencies''.  

Correia compared the technologies employed in Brazil, the Philippines and India, and analyzed the benefits that automation has brought to each of these nations. In the Philippines, the first South Asian country to automate its elections, the pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that 75% of the voters were ''very satisfied'' with the way the elections were conducted, their speed and credibility.  Additionally, these elections allowed the Filipino people, for the first time in their history, to know the electoral results the very day of the voting. This case shows, even partially, that there is no dependency relation between the degree of development of a given country, or its geography for that matter, and the implementation of electronic voting systems. 

In the case of Brazil, although the machines do no print voting vouchers, Correia highlighted the advantage of having the equipment activated through biometric authentication of the electorate, therefore guaranteeing the premise of ''one man, one vote''. Finally, Correia praised the minimum power consumption of the voting equipment used in India, home of the world?s biggest election. 

Other participants in the forum were Carlos Holguín Sardi, former President of the Partido Conservador (Conservative Party), Juan Pablo Cepero Márquez, President of the National Electoral Council, Juan Fernando Cristo, Senator of the Republic, and Jennifer McCoy, Director of the Carter Center?s Americas Program, who gave a presentation on the different automated voting systems, the characteristics of each technology and some specific experiences. 

The Forum allowed the participants to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of implementing an automated voting system from economic, social and cultural points of view. It was stressed that such a system helps grant transparency and efficacy to electoral processes, but is not a guarantee for the disappearance of the inherent vices of democratic processes, a point on which Colombian institutions in particular, and Latin-American institutions in general, still need to work very hard.