Venezuelan Elections Council Announces Audit of Fingerprint Scanners

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced this week that it would permit representatives of the presidential candidates to audit the controversial fingerprint scanning machines.

Caracas, Venezuela, September 9, 2006—Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced this week that although it will not turn over the database of the nine million changes in the voter registry, for review by the technicians of the presidential candidates, it would permit them to audit the controversial fingerprint scanning machines.

Venezuela will be using a computerized fingerprint database for this December’s presidential elections in order to ensure that citizens do not attempt to vote more than once. Just as with the 2004 presidential recall referendum, citizens will be required to provide their fingerprint, which will be matched with others in the system to ensure that they have not already voted.

The system appears to be the latest technology in order to eliminate electoral fraud. However, its use has recently been one of the main sticking points for the opposition, which is afraid that the fingerprint database will be linked with the voting machines, thereby enabling the government to identify each citizen’s choice for candidate, thus eliminating the secrecy of vote. Some members of the opposition additionally fear that with the ability to identify each citizen’s vote, the government may attempt to eliminate votes made by members of the opposition.

Last Thursday, the CNE held its first meeting with the technicians and political factions of the various campaigns to discuss the auditory process to take place before the December 3rd elections.

“Your opinion, as fundamental actors in an electoral process, is vital to us,” said Lucena, “That’s why we have been pushing hard, and we are going to continue until after the elections.”

The audits will be carried out in six phases: First, focusing on the software and voting machine data; second, the programming of the voting machines; third, “rigorous and controlled tests” of randomly chosen machines; fourth, an audit of the software, voter authentication, and data of the total polling both count; fifth, an audit to verify the “precision of the automized voter process”; and finally, the audit to be carried out after the elections to ensure that the process was legitimate.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, the head of the Unified Command of the Armed Forces, (CUFAM) Wilfredo Silva, met with the CNE to finalize details on the implementation of the electoral Plan Republica (Plan of the Republic), which will attempt to ensure security before, during and after the elections for the entire country.

It was announced that 125,786 security men and women will participate during the five-day period around election day, including 18,332 members of the National Guard who will be used to logistically support polling centers across the country.

Silva declared that the Plan also discusses possible support by intelligence organisms in order to detect groups that “want to sabotage the process.”

This week, the CNE additionally gave out an extension until next Monday night to the twenty presidential candidates that have not, as of yet, turned in their first report on campaign income to the electoral council. Hugo Chavez is the only candidate of the presidential front-runners to turn in his report on time.

The CNE will hold a special session next Monday to deal with the various complaints of campaign violations against the norms of publicity and propaganda, on the part of both the Chavez and Rosales campaigns.