“The U.S. government must know this, too,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, economist and co-author of a forthcoming paper with economist and computer scientist David Rosnick. “So it is difficult to explain why they are refusing to recognize the elected president – in opposition to all of the countries in Latin America and most of the world.”
The results of Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election returned 7,575,506 votes for Nicolás Maduro, and 7,302,641 votes for challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. This is a difference of 272,865 votes, or 1.8 percent of the two-way total between the candidates.
In this election, voters express their preference by pressing a computer touch-screen, which then prints out a paper receipt of their vote. The voter then checks to make sure that the receipt was the same as her choice, and deposits the paper receipt in a sealed box.
When the polls closed, a random sample of 53 percent[i] of all the machines (20,825 out of 39,303) was chosen, and a manual tally was made of the paper receipts. This “hot audit” was done on site, in the presence of the observers from both campaigns, as well as witnesses from the community. There were no reports from witnesses or election officials on site of discrepancies between the machine totals and the hand count.
Immediately after the election results were announced on the night of April 14th, the Venezuelan opposition demanded a full “recount” of all of the voting machines’ paper receipts and subsequently called for an audit – or manual count – of the 46% of the sealed boxes containing the paper receipts that had not yet been audited. After the Venezuelan Electoral Council’s (CNE’s) decision to grant their request, on April 18th, the main opposition party came up with a series of new demands suggesting that they did not believe that a full audit would provide evidence of any significant fraud. On April 26 they announced that they would “boycott” the audit that they had requested the previous week.
What if it were true that there were enough mismatches in the 39,303 machines to have given Maduro a 50.8 percent majority, when Capriles had been the true winner? CEPR calculated that the probability of getting the results of the first audit would then have been less than one in 25 thousand trillion.
“The results are pretty much intuitive,” said Weisbrot. “With a sample that huge verified during the April 14 ‘hot audit,’ if there were any discrepancies between the machine count and the paper ballots, it would have shown up somewhere. But it didn’t.”
It is therefore practically impossible that an audit of the remaining 46 percent of ballot boxes could find enough discrepancies to reverse the result of the election.
The forthcoming paper also calculates the probability that the remaining 46 percent of ballot boxes, if audited, could change the outcome. It also looks at other possible scenarios, including allegations from Capriles that there were irregularities in some 12,000 of the remaining machines, and other ways that the unaudited machines could have enough errors to change the result. The above calculation can be seen here. The full paper will be available next week.
[i] Another 1 percent was audited the next day.