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Colombia: The 2011 Regional Elections

On Sunday, October 30, 2011, Colombia held regional elections [es] for local public posts such as governors, department assemblies, mayors, city councils, and local administrative boards.

Colombia is divided into 32 administrative departments (which are grouped by cities) led by governors. At the same time, these departments have departmental assemblies and each city or municipality (the name depends on the number of residents) has a mayor, a group of council members that basically oversee the city hall, and a number of local administrative boards that represent different neighborhoods.

Due to the importance of these posts, these elections are tracked in the same manner as the presidential elections. Citizens followed the voting closely and the elections were widely discussed on citizen media platforms and social networks.

La Alpujarra Administrative Center, complex where the Departmental Governor of Antioquia and the Municipal Governor of Medellín are located.  Image from the Secretary of Transport and Transit of Medelllín (CC BY 2.0)

La Alpujarra Administrative Center, complex where the Departmental Governor of Antioquia and the Municipal Governor of Medellín are located. Image from the Secretary of Transport and Transit of Medelllín (CC BY 2.0)

Many invited others to vote regardless of the candidate or political party of their preference.

From outside of the country, RosaCris (@rosacris) said:

Cada voto es importante. Por eso mi colombianitis. Es la primera vez q no votaré. Aprendizajes para la próxima q esté fuera del país. Iré…

Every vote is important. As such, my colombianitis. This is the first time that I will not vote. A learning experience for the next time that I'm out of the country. I will go…

Online journalist Juan Martín (@juamac) wrote:

A menos de dos horas para que finalice la jornada electoral, ¿ya votaron? #Yocuidomivoto

Less that two hours until election day is over. Have you voted yet? #Itakecareofmyvote

Information continued circulating across telephone lines to report irregularities and the site Pilas con el voto [es] posted inforgraphics with statistics from citizens.

Víctor Solano (@solano), blogger and journalist, published the following from Bogotá:

Línea gratuita para reportar irregularidades durante #VotoCo: 018000912005

Free line to report irregularities during #VotoCo: 018000912005

Meanwhile, PAPpereza (@papereza) provided this information:

Por ahora Antioquia le gana al país en materia de irregularidades electorales denunciadas en Pilas Con El Voto

For now, Antioquia is winning in the country in terms of electoral irregularities reported in Pilas Con El Voto

At the end of the day, some citizens published assessments of what they experienced.

Carlos A. Ramirez (@Caligular) said:

Muy tranquilas y con buena asistencia las votaciones en el centro occidente de Medellín. Una ligera lluvia humedece el final de la jornada.

Voting in the western center of Medellín was very calm and had good attendance. A light, humid drizzle at the end of the day.

Wiki Communication (@Wikiperiodismo) reported:

Largas filas se registran en algunos puestos de votación en Cali, el invierno azota el norte del Valle y relativa normal del órden público

Long lines registered in some voting posts in Cali, the winter hit the north of the Valley hard and public order was relatively normal.

At the closure of the voting posts, some reflections surged, such as that of Luis Alirio Calle (@LuisAlirioCalle), who referred to buying votes:

El problema del mundo no es de cositas, de regalitos, de empleítos. El problema del mundo es de conciencia.

The world's problem is not one of little things, little gifts, or jobs. The world's problem is one of conscience.

From Medellín, Juan Mosquera (@lluevelove) published:

Son los que han decidido que su voto no tiene precio los que harán la diferencia al final del día.

At the end of the day, those who make a difference are those who have decided that their vote is priceless.

Some Twitter users posted reactions starting the count of votes, like Carlos Correa Cano (@kloscorrea):

Por favor pueblo colombiano no le vamos a echar la culpa a Dios… El abstencionismo y los elegidos es culpa nuestra.

Please Colombians, let's not blame God… Abstentionism and the chosen officials are our responsibility.

Making a soccer analogy, Mr Arias (@chori) said:

Oir resultados de elecciones me genera la misma sensacion que ver penaltis, pero más larga. Que cosa maluca.

Hearing the election results generates the same sensation in me as watching penalty shots, but longer. What a crazy feeling.

Raigohead (@raigohead) warned from Medellín:

Tengan miedo. Mucho Miedo.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

From the same city, Perla Toro (@PerlaToro) tweeted when Gustavo Petro and Aníbal Gaviria had won the mayoral posts in Bogotá and Medellín, respectively [es]:

Dios existe y al pueblo le queda gente honesta. #elecciones2011

God exists and honest people do remain here. #elecciones2011

Angel, from the PC Web blog, has his criticisms [es]:

Era impresionante cómo los “placeros” (aludiendo al parecido con los vendedores ambulantes de las plazas, los que venden aguacates, gafas y cosas por el estilo) de los partidos se abalanzaban sobre los electores para inducirlos a votar por sus candidatos.

It was impressive how the “street vendors” (alluding to the resemblance to the street vendors in plazas, those that sell avocados, sunglasses, and fashion items) from the parties that pounce on voters to convince them to vote for their candidates.

He continues on to question the fact that there is still no electronic voting in Colombia:

Independientemente de los votos recogidos el día de hoy ciudad por ciudad en Colombia, creo que ya es hora (hace mucho rato es hora) de estar manejando el voto sistematizado, sin tarjetones de papel, sin tanto personal en las mesas, es más, uno debería poder hacerlo desde su casa si así lo prefiriera como elector, siempre y cuando valide su cédula, su huella digital y/o su rostro en el sistema para evitar suplantación de identidad. Pero no, aquí en este país de lentos en términos digitales, prefieren despilfarrar millonadas en tarjetones, personal supernumerario, jurados, testigos, etc. y no invertir en tecnología de punta que agilice procesos y les de transparencia.

Regardless of the votes gathered to this day, city by city, in Colombia I think it is time (and has been for quite a while) to be managing the systematized vote, without paper ballots, without so much personnel at the tables, and furthermore, people should be able to do it from their houses since that is how the voters prefer it, and have them validate their IDs, their fingerprints and/or face in the system to avoid forgery of identity. But no, here in this slow country, in terms of digitizing things, they prefer to spend a fortune on ballots, extra personnel, jurors, witnesses, etc. and not to invest in the technology that speeds up these processes and gives them transparency.

Additionally, through Facebook [es], people were invited to submit a paper with the text “No to the Law 30 reform,” with the goal of calling attention to the higher education reform that the current government is leading.

The surprise of the day was the victory of the blank paper ballot vote in the Bello municipality from the Antioquia department, which will require a repeat of the elections. [es]

Finally, Ana Vallejo (@anavallejoc) makes a pertinent reflection:

Lo que creo es que nos preocupamos el dia de elecciones y luego no hacemos control ciudadano para que las promesas sean cumplidas.

What I believe is that we care on election day and later we don't exercise citizen control so that promises are kept.

You can follow more reactions to these elections with the hashtags #elecciones2011 and #VotoCo

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