Caracas, Venezuela, July 22, 2006—The Coordinator of one of the voter registry audits conducted by the universities, José Miguel Bernardo, says that first results of their audit indicate that while the registry has many errors, there is nothing to suggest that these are there to perpetrate fraud.
Bernardo is coordinating an audit independent of Venezuela’s electoral council (CNE), on assignment by the Catholic University Andrés Bello (UCAB), the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), and the University of Simon Bolivar (USB). Another audit is currently being conducted by the CNE itself with the cooperation of seven other universities and under observation of the Carter Center and a delegation of the Belgian Senate.
Bernardo, who is a statistics expert, told the TV station Globovision that his analysis of the voter registry has shown that there are many errors, but these are administrative and lack political intentionality that could alter the results of an election. Errors that the opposition has found recently, such as the large number of over 100 year olds are true, he said, but, “In practice [these] do not favor the government and their distribution is uniform.”
Similarly, USB mathematician Raúl Jimenez, who is also involved in the audit, said, “One must be responsible. The electoral registry is a disaster and the CNE has done nothing to improve it, but there is nothing to indicate a political intention in the anomalies.”
Jimenez explained that his audit estimated the electoral results from the recall referendum without the erroneously registered voters and found that the President would have won the vote in any case. “The newly inscribed are not being placed so that they vote for the President. We have an aspect that is conclusive: there are no [political] tendencies [to the data],” said Jimenez.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, which oversees all electoral processes, had originally invited nine universities and an institute to make proposals and to participate in a second audit of the voter registry, which has recently been strongly criticized by the opposition. While the CNE rejected the audit proposal of three of the universities, it has allowed them to conduct their own independent audit, but their results will not be taken into consideration for the correction of the registry’s data. The CNE will, however, evaluate the results of the three universities’ audit.
Carter Center and Belgian Delegation Join Audit
The CNE audit, in conjunction with the seven other universities and a research institute, started a few weeks ago and will now incorporate observers from the Carter Center and the Belgian Senate, announced the CNE earlier this week.
In a letter from Carter Center representative Jennifer McCoy, the Carter Center had recently requested permission to observe the CNE audit. “Considering the importance of having a reliable voter registry for the electoral process, we salute the CNE Board of Directors’ decision to conduct a new audit of the registry. In that sense, we would enormously appreciate the possibility of being in direct touch with the development of this initiative,” said McCoy in her letter to the CNE.
Also, this Monday, two delegates from the Belgian Senate, who are members of the inter-parliamentary Belgian-Venezuelan group, will begin observing the audit of the voter registry.
Opposition Launches More Charges of Registry Errors
Meanwhile, an opposition party has launched more charges of irregularities in the voter registry. Earlier this month, the former governing party, but now minor opposition party, Copei presented its own results of an audit, in which it claimed that 1.8 million registered voters had the same address and 2.1 million had no address at all.
It is not clear, though, where Copei got its copy of the registry from, since the CNE has refused to turn over the complete registry, with all voters’ addresses, arguing that doing so would be a violation of privacy.
Last year, the CNE contacted CAPEL, an electoral consulting group of the Inter-American Human Rights Institute, to conduct the first audit. The results of that audit showed that the percentage of “sensitive” errors, that is, errors that could lead to fraud, were below 3%, which is well below the internationally accepted margin of error of 5% for voter registries.
CAPEL’s final report stated, “The technical team of IIDH/CAPEL did not find reason to imply a delegitimation of Venezuela’s Voter Registry as a legally valid instrument for conducting elections.”