Congress Approves Mandatory Voting

By bogotapost October 8, 2014
Election MG 3455

The new law could apply to a referendum on any peace deal reached with the FARC.

‘Trial’ law to make voting compuslory in next three elections

Colombians could be coaxed into the voting booth in future elections with a measure passed by Congress last week that will make voting mandatory.

The measure is part of a package of so-called ‘balance of power’ reforms that also include limiting the time various public officials can hold office to one term.

The measure will be subject to a “trial period” when it comes into force in June next year, and apply to the next three elections, according to local media reports.

An election for mayors and governors is scheduled for October 25, 2015, and those elections will be subject to the mandatory voting law.

Should a peace accord be reached between the government and the FARC rebels in the near future, the law would likely require all registered voters to vote in the referendum on ratifying such a peace accord.

President Juan Manuel Santos has stated previously that he would put any such accord directly to the Colombian people in a referendum.

The approval of mandatory voting still has to survive seven more Senate debate sessions in order to see the measure ratified. Last week’s was just the first of eight, according to El Tiempo newspaper.

It is not clear, however, if mandatory voting will or even can be enforced. Many countries with mandatory voting laws – many of them in Latin America – have laws requiring citizens to vote but do not penalise voters who do not.

In other countries with such laws, voters who do not vote can be subject to a fine or community service.

By Mark Kennedy