Colombia’s Shockingly (to a Venezuelan) Mundane Election System

eleccionesLess than an hour after the closing of the polling stations, we learned that Oscar Ivan Zuluaga –Uribe’s boy- pushed President Santos to a presidential runoff vote, actually beating him in the 2nd round of Colombia’s presidential election.

What shocked Venezuelans the most? How quickly they announced the results.

Venezuela is said to have one of the best electoral systems in the world, but Tibisay has left us waiting for hours just to tell us to wait some more. Who can forget the Baranda hours?

We talked with a friend from Bogotá to understand the election process. And we even got a live run through of Election Day via BBmsn.

First: the basics

The Registraduría is the Colombian CNE and the Registrador Nacional is their Tibysay, right now, it’s Carlos Sánchez Torres, a lawyer and academic.

The Registrador Nacional is chosen on a merit-base by the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court and the Council of State for a period of 4 years. The Registrador can’t be an active political militant and shouldn’t be for a least a year prior to the selection process. The Registrador must meet the same requirements applicable to judges and can be re-elected. What’s shocking is that these rules aren’t just on paper: they follow them and everything.

The current Registrador is in his 2nd period. At this point we can’t help but remember that the period of 3 of the 5 Rectores of the CNE expired over a year ago. And we are barely at the start of the conformation of the Comité de Postulaciones del Poder Electoral that will choose the new Rectores.

The 2nd round was born under the Colombian Constitution of 1991. Only Uribe has won in the 1st round, both times. Samper, Pastrana, and Santos won in the 2nd round. Before Samper there was no 2nd round.

You’re allowed to cast a blank vote –meaning protest or null vote. It must not be confused with the Adeco “white” vote- in the 1st and 2nd rounds, but it’s only relevant in the 1st. If in the 1st round it gets 50%+1 of the votes, the elections must be annulled and new candidates must be presented. This has never happened. Otherwise, the two highest placed candidates will meet in the 2nd round.

During Election Day there is little Military Police presence outside the polling stations, dedicated to regular patrol duties. Security inside the stations and its entrance are the sole responsibility of the National Police. In the “red zones” (presence of illegal armed groups) the situation might be different.

A polling station consists of a number tables. The lists of the ID numbers and their corresponding voting table are outside. Once at your table, you hand in your cédula and receive your ballot. ONLY THE ONE WHO’S VOTING can pass to mark the vote. Meaning: no voto asistido for Colombians.

Perhaps most amazing to the Venezuelan psyche is that the entire voting process, including the count, is done by hand. There are some polling stations that are implementing biometric identification (fingerprints), but are just a few.

In case of fraud, attempted fraud or any other irregularities, there are certain authorities in every polling station that they should be reported to.

Election witnesses are selected by the parties and are duly authorized and given IDs. They are observers of the closing of the ballot boxes, the counting and recounting of the votes en mesa, the sealing of the bags with the election materials and the destruction of the remaining material. For reasons that we still find hard to understand, that process ends up yielding results much faster than Venezuela’s multi-million-dollar electronic system. Go figure.

Second: a quick rundown of a typical election day

elecciones-presidenciales-2014A jurado de votación told our friend that the National Anthem was played at 7:58am on May 25.

Her polling station opened at 8:00am and closed at 4:00pm sharp regardless if anyone was still waiting in line to vote.

Mind. Blown!

At this point, the National Anthem was played once more and, directly afterward, the counting of the votes began with the presence of the electoral witnesses.

Third: a trip down Election Day

(We decided to leave it in Spanish. Didn’t want to lose the chispa of our source)

4 soldaditos a más de 100mts de mi puesto de votación
Ni medio en el puesto
Y son PMs
Policía Militar
Basically just regular patrol
Hasta con una bolsita de pan y café sentados……

El frente de Unicentro [Centro Comercial]
Tiene como 4 o 5 cuadras
Había como 5 soldaditos spread out
En la parte de atrás como 4
Solo como pa hacer presencia

Si hay mucho policía normal alrededor de Unicentro
Mucho más que lo normal
Pero es normal pal 3er centro de votación de Bogotá… casi que de Colombia
Si querías entrar a Falabella
Podías entrar fresco
La ciudad sigue

Y los milicos solo fuera de los puestos como tal
Adentro no se ve ni uno
Hay una cosa que se llama “mesa de justicia”
Que no sé qué hace….pero creo que tiene gente de organismos de control
Ahora, como te digo… en región debe ser diferente
Especialmente en zona roja

Y a las 4
Si no votaste

Aquí ya el registrador dijo
Primer boletín 4.30pm
A las 9pm 95%
Y siguen con boletines hasta las 11pm

Me demore 15 entre buscar que mesa me toco, entrar, buscar la mesa votar y salir
Y no es electrónico
Creo que tienen un app
Donde ves los updates as they are uploaded
Las mesas llenan una cosa que se llama forma E14 creo
Se va a poder ver el scan de esa forma en cada mesa

38 mins después
43% de resultados ya listos

Abstención se calcula arriba del 60%
Voto en blanco termina alrededor del 6%
Fenómeno de redes sociales no más
Chinos que no votan
En menos de 1 hora
89.39% escrutado
Zuluaga 29.10% Santos 25.45%
Santos 3ro en Bogotá
Muuuuy diciente
Zuluaga 29.21% Santos 25.45% Ramírez 15.58%

Ya hay candidatos reconociendo derrotas
En 1 hr
Tiempo record

Bombardeen de artículos comparando…..
Zuluaga 29.24%
No oí santos
Pero debe ser por ahí a los 25%

I asked: ¿las encuestas la pegaron?
Cosa que no pasó hace 4 años

[si fuera Santos] Yo estaría muerto del susto
Un presidente
Con todos los recursos
Y nada?

No lo quieren y peor
No le creen
Zuluaga 29.27% Santos 25.61%

Los analistas dicen
Que mucha gente
Votará con Santos [en 2da vuelta]
Por votar contra Uribe
Es así

[el tema de Uribe sigue] Hasta que dejen de pararle bolas…..que-viene-alvaro-uribe-a-quien-carajo-le-importa

7 thoughts on “Colombia’s Shockingly (to a Venezuelan) Mundane Election System

  1. This is indeed shocking- for a Venezuelan. I remember when I was a child and Venezuelans would look down at Colombians (some still do).

    A couple of things a Colombian reader (Cachacho) told me:

    1) the Registraduría also deals with the management of Colombians’ IDs
    2) Colombians living abroad can get their IDs at a Colombian embassy in case they lose theirs or something, whereas it is impossible for a Venezuelan to get his abroad and thus every Venezuelan expat who loses his ID has to go back to Venezuela to get a new ID. There are many thousands of Venezuelans who just can’t do this


  2. “Votará con Santos [en 2da vuelta]
    Por votar contra Uribe”
    Coño, los farcasesinos sí que tienen viudas en ese país xD


  3. I think an important part of the Colombian system is that the Registraduría (which deals with logistics) is separate from the CNE (which officializes results). Firstly this means that someone like Tibisay wouldn’t have such a huge monopoly of power and allows us to have someone much more technical as the head of the Registraduría.

    Also, the “preconteo” is done by the jurados de votación right there on the tables and this is what we see on the news (and here: The actual official results are given by CNE, though the discrepancy is usually in the order of tenths of a percent, even less for presidential elections. It also avoid the whole “tendencia irreversible” nonsense. The first boletín had something like 1% of the polls reported, then 3, then 8, then 15, then 30, then 50 and so on. We get to see how the results are centralized in real time.


  4. i think you meant the ‘first round’ of voting. The second is still to come, and let’s hope that the Left comes out for Santos and to sink Uribe II/Zuluaga.

    The most dramatic difference with Vzla, of course, is that here the opposition beat the government.



  5. COlombians need a real revolutionary.
    That way they can all say “look,the Gran Colombia is back,el sueño de Bolivar!!” and rally all latinamerican comeflores (wich seems to be at least 80% of the LatAm population) to the red side of the brain.


  6. Meaning: no voto asistido for Colombians.

    At all?

    Here in Chicago, assisted voting is allowed for elderly and handicapped voters. And assisted voting may be necessary for a visually impaired voter. A family member may accompany a disabled voter to the booth. If no family member is present, a voter may request assistance from two judges of election, one of each major party.

    Does Colombia make such exceptions?


  7. A piece of Venezuela history on this:

    The role of the military in Election Day (Plan República) was created by the military junta led by Wolfgang Larrazábal in order to provide security for voters and polling places on December 1958 owing to the risk of sabotage —yes, some things weren’t all peaches and cream after Marcos Pérez Jiménez left.

    The next two elections were threatened by the infamous Venezuelan guerrilla and the then-illegal Venezuelan Communist Party. So far, so good.

    Plan República should’ve been disbanded after Caldera had achieved a peace treaty with extreme left wing groups and the guerrilla in the early 1970s. It wasn’t. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, “they don’t mind helping” and “It shows our democracy is well guarded” were the shameful reasons. Civil society never saw it coming.


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