|The president and secretary at a voting station completing the forms after checking machines|
April 24, 2013
Monitoring the Venezuelan Election
Last October I participated in a delegation of members of the National Lawyers Guild who monitored the presidential elections in Venezuela. Following the death of Hugo Chávez, new elections were called and I was again invited to join the Guild in monitoring the elections. We were part of an international delegation more than one hundred members of government, election commissions, journalists, professors, judges and representatives of NGOs from across the world.
We were impressed by the efficiency and accessibility of the voting process and with the high level of voter registration and participation. The success of the CNE’s voter registration outreach was reflected by the high turnout rate -- close to 80% for both elections -- and the fact that over 95% of all eligible voters are now registered.
While some aspects of the voting process would not be applicable in the US, many of the electoral reforms implemented in Venezuela provide a stark contrast to the extensive recent efforts during the US presidential election to restrict and suppress the vote here and would go far to dispel both the perception of unfairness and to restore the credibility of our own democratic processes:
|Two women who have just voted in Carabobo|
• Elections are held on Sundays to make it easier for working people to vote;
• A major, well-financed outreach effort has resulted in a dramatic increase in voter registration;
• Sophisticated technology is used to eliminate all possibilities of fraud or manipulation of data;
• Voting machines all issue a paper receipt that can be viewed by the voter to confirm that his or her vote has been properly registered;
• These paper receipts are then placed by the voters in traditional ballot boxes and, after the polls close, 54% of those boxes are counted manually through a citizen verification process to ensure that the final tape from the voting machine is correct.
Last October, Chávez won by an 11% margin, leading to a rapid concession by his opponent, Henrique Capriles. The April election was far tighter and, with a 1 ˝% margin, opposition forces refused to recognize Nicolás Maduro’s victory. Their call for a full audit was quickly backed by the United States which called for a full recount. This exacerbated tensions following the election, as protests with pots and pans erupted and eight Maduro supporters were subsequently killed and others were injured. Several health clinics staffed by Cuban doctors were also burned.
|President of a local voting station with the tape from an electronic voting machine that shows the vote count and signatures of party witnesses and electoral officials|
The National Electoral Commission, an independent fifth arm of government, has announced that it will audit the remaining 46% of the vote (they will count the receipts from 400 machines per day during three ten-day periods). This reportedly has eased tensions.
The UE officers sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, urging recognition of the election and joined a short statement by some 45 organizations to the same end. Unfortunately, despite recognition by virtually all Latin American countries including Colombia, Mexico and Chile, the US continues to isolate itself, failing to either recognize the outcome of the election or to send any high level representatives to the swearing in ceremony for Maduro.