Mérida, November 17, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Tibisay Lucena, the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), confirmed Sunday that voting equipment has been audited and delivered to all of the 34,662 voting centers across the country in preparation for this Sunday’s regional and local elections, which are the first elections in Venezuelan to be 100% automated.
Teams of up to thirty CNE technicians have carried out voting machine audits in fifty three sections of the country. Now, a final audit of the results transmission system is scheduled for the day before the elections, said Lucena.
Lucena and other CNE directors met with Defense Minister Gustavo Rangel Briceño and other Defense Ministry officials to review the rules that the armed forces will help to enforce at the voting centers, including the mandatory 200 meter security perimeter, and the opening and closing times.
Sunday’s elections will be monitored by 130 international observers, including a representative from each of the 34 members of the Organization of American States (OAS), according to Rosaura Sierra, the CNE’s director of international relations.
The international observers will be distributed among nine states: Zulia, Táchira, Barinas, Bolívar, Nueva Esparta, Anzoátegui, Lara, Monagas, and Yaracuy, and the capital district of Caracas, Serra said.
Lucena commented that technological and other improvements to the electoral system “have converted the traditional international observation into a program of accompaniment by countries on the continent and the rest of the world to learn about the Venezuelan electoral system.”
According to the CNE, there will be 1,427 rapid response centers, one for each locality, to respond to complications at voting centers. Storage facilities containing spare electoral materials and equipment have also been placed across the country according to population density, and special plans have been made to service the less accessible rural areas.
To educate voters, the CNE broadcast five-minute voter education workshops over radio and television stations nation-wide in the morning, afternoon, and night throughout the month of November. Lucena carried out a weekly Tuesday morning talk show called “Suffrage” on the government radio station.
In addition, CNE-trained volunteers mounted more than 1,500 voter education fairs across the country to distribute informative materials and sample voter ballots that voters will be allowed to bring to the polls and open only while using the voting machines.
“Voting is very easy if we know beforehand who we are going to vote for, where [the candidates] are located on the ballot, and how many votes we are going to put on the ballot,” said Lucena.
Of the newly registered voters this election, over three quarters are between the ages of 18 and 22, according to CNE statistics.
Last October 26th, the CNE conducted an election simulation in which 740 voting centers were opened for 17,000 volunteers to practice the voting procedure and test the machinery.
Former V.P. Sanctioned for Violating Electoral Norms
Meanwhile, CNE officials announced Monday that they will sanction three media outlets for reporting the results of voter opinion surveys within one week of the election, which is prohibited in Article 209 of the Organic Law on Suffrage and Political Participation.
The militant leftist daily newspaper Diario Vea, a local radio station in the central state of Guárico, and Chávez’s former vice president José Vicente Rangel, violated the law on Sunday, according to the CNE.
Rangel, a professional journalist, responded that the transmission of opinion poll results on his weekly Sunday talk show José Vicente Hoy was not intentional. “I admit to having committed an error,” he said in a televised statement. “I ask the people of Venezuela and the CNE to forgive me,” he continued, “I am willing to assume total responsibility… and pay all necessary fines.”
Lucena met on Sunday with CNE co-Directors Vicente Díaz and Germán Yépez Colmenares to review current cases of violations of electoral norms, and will meet again Tuesday to determine sanctions.