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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Unlike natural and formal sciences, political and philosophical sciences are not characterized by an accumulative and linear nature, but rather by a configuration around recurring thematic axes which have been debated for centuries, without expecting to reach a definition. Bobbio (1993) has achieved some consensus in establishing the fundamental topics that make up the study of politics are concentrated in the forms of government, the legitimacy of the authority, the duty of obedience, the role of the State, and the very concept of politics.

Regarding the active right of suffrage, it is a recurring topic that the determination for it, is mandatory or facultative nature. In the first case, its defenders advocate for a system in which the electoral body assumes an unwavering position of a collegiate body, which compels it to elect an authority or a position. This line of thought is based on the necessity to legitimize, in a democratic manner, the elected authority, whose designation is responsibility of the totality of qualified citizens, rather than of a faction that kindly went to the polling stations.

Those who defend the contrary position, support their point of view by arguing the subjective nature of the right to vote, according to Farrajoli (2013), is an available right that belongs exclusively to the people with the capacity to act, and concedes to every qualified person the possibility to decide either to pronounce or abstain themselves, which would transfer the possibility to decide the rest of the citizens, but also a political position of disinterest or rejection to the system.

It is worth to say that no matter which model is adopted, it will necessarily require an adequate institutional design. Mandatory vote accomplishes its goal when the citizenry can count on technical, physical and logistical facilities that allow their access to the polling stations, but mainly when there is a substantial political debate exists that involves the community in public deliberations.

Apathy distances us form those public spaces in which we are free and equal, where we present our ideas to be rebutted, where we feed ourselves from everyone’s thoughts and where we contribute to the development of a common life project. In the words of Hannah Arendt (2003), apathy, life apart from the rest, dehumanizes us, allowing the public space to be occupied by particular interests, as the precursor for the establishment of authoritarian models (Bunge, 2009).

A-The quality of debate as a mechanism to encourage participation
The most effective tool to attract the citizens to the polling stations is to arouse their spontaneous interest and engagement in the electoral events. The quality of the information provided by the electoral authority, the media, the political organizations and the candidates constitute a fundamental source to arouse interest and understand the significance of participation in the configuration of the general will.
The quality of government plans, and the equitable promotion through public funding in communicational spaces allow the citizenry to get to know the different proposals and witness the debates on governmental axes, bringing the political discussions to the streets, the universities, the offices and the homes, which are the places where democracy must be sowed. In this way, an effective and sustainable participation can be guaranteed, even in the context of facultative vote.

B-The instrumental aspect
A policy that promotes massive electoral participation, in addition to bring the citizenry to the polling places, must bring the polling places closer to the citizenry. Thus, a collective motivated by the quality of the political debate needs simple, comfortable and reliable roads in order to exercise their right to vote, without this implying a bigger effort.

An aggressive process of decentralization of the polling stations is essential, but not enough. In 2007, Guatemala allowed its percentage of participation to rise in 2.6% that year, going from 57.9% in 2003 to 60.5% in 2007; and in 2011 rising to 69.34%, being this the higher attendance to the polling stations since 1985, when 69.28% of the registered citizens participated (Ortiz: 2015, 362).

Additionally, models such as online voting, postal voting and electronic voting through units located in any establishment of sale of first need products, favor citizen participation. However, we also require biometric technological developments and reliable information systems that prevent a person from voting more than once and hinder electoral identity theft.

Regarding online services, the financial system network could make a great contribution, especially with regard to the security of the system in order to guarantee that only the voter, can access the virtual voting module, unless, under their own responsibility, they share password and necessary data to act on their representation. This is, perhaps, the most critical aspect that given the importance of the role of “correctness, transparency and authenticity of the first count of cast votes…” (Sottoli, 2007: 881) that the polling stations have in an electoral process.

To sum up, and as a conclusion, we can say that the goal of making the polling places accessible and adequate for voter requires from the electoral authority, not only to enjoy popular confidence, but to be able to motivate interest on the programmatic proposals of the candidates and to develop the necessary technical capabilities, to implement decentralized technological tools for every person. So that, they can exercise their right to vote with total freedom and confidence.

-Arendt, H. (2003) La Condición Humana. Barcelona: Paidós.
-Bobbio, N., Matteucci, N. & Pasquino, G. (1993). Diccionario de Política. México: Siglo XXI.
-Bunge, M. (2009) Filosofía política. Barcelona: Gedisa.
-Ferrajoli, L. (2013) Los fundamentos de los derechos fundamentales. Madrir: Trotta.
-Ortiz, C. (2015). “Guatemala y los retos de las elecciones 2015” en: Tribunal Supremo Electoral, Revista Derecho Electoral Guatemala: ISSN: 1659-2069, pp. 357-368.
-Sttoli, S. (2007) “Las mesas electorales” en: IDEA et. Al., Tratado de Derecho Electoral Comparado de América Latina, México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

 Diego A. Zambrano Álvarez