Opinion and Analysis: Politics
Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation on the April 14, 2013 Presidential Election and Expanded May-June Audit in Venezuela
National Lawyers Guild (NLG) election monitors from the United States issued their report today, concluding that the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election process was fair, transparent, participatory, and well-organized.
A five-member NLG delegation formed part of a larger delegation of over 130 parliamentarians, two former presidents, electoral commission members, journalists, and representatives of human rights NGOs from across the world. Election monitors traveled to polling places throughout the country on Election Day.
The NLG report describes a system that strives to encourage voter registration and participation as well as the use of advanced technology – including fingerprint identification and issuance of paper receipts by voting machines – to ensure accuracy and preclude fraud. Active participation by party witnesses and national and international observers provide further assurances. In addition, the observers found a reliable system in which 54 percent of all receipts were randomly audited after the polls close on Election Day to ensure that paper receipts matched the electronic vote recorded by the machines.
A second NLG delegation traveled to Venezuela after the election to observe the expanded audit that had been requested by the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, and approved by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The expanded audit was designed and conducted under the purview of a technical team of 30 professors and other professionals from the Central University of Venezuela. The expanded audit found that of “the voting slips audited, 4,596,432 showed no discrepancies whatsoever in relation to the polling booth record of total votes cast, which represents 99.98% of the total.”
The report also contains a review of the legal process pursued by the opposition, noting a lack of evidentiary support. Citing a failure to provide “sufficient proof,” Magistrate Gladys Gutierrez announced that the court had reached a unanimous decision, rejecting the petition and fining the opposition for what was effectively abuse of process.
Describing the independent nature of the CNE, the report concludes: “We have found the CNE’s President, Tibisay Lucena, and the other members of the CNE and its staff to be consistently concerned with perfecting the electoral process to ensure that every Venezuelan adult has access to the polls and every single vote is counted, regardless of party affiliation or candidate.”
“The U.S. would do well to incorporate some of the security checks and practices that are routine in Venezuela to improve both the level of participation and the credibility of our elections,” said NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani. “Holding elections on Sundays would facilitate access for working people and utilizing machines that issue receipts would increase credibility and permit the verification of results.”
The margin of victory for Nicolas Murduro, while small, was comparable to close elections in the U.S., such as the margins of victory for Kennedy in 1960 and for Bush in 2000 and 2004. The National Lawyers Guild calls upon the U.S. to honor the Venezuelan election as nations of the world have unquestionably honored ours. As Jimmy Carter recognized, Venezuela’s electronic voting system backed by paper ballots is “the best in the world,” and therefore deserves at least as much respect as our own.
Daniel Kovalik, a member of both delegations who teaches International Human Rights law said: “As this report shows, the Venezuelan elections on April 14 were free and fair, and the CNE continues to take great pains to ensure the integrity and reliability of the Venezuelan electoral system.”
To access the full report, visit http://www.nlg.org/resource/reports/delegation-to-venezuela.
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