Venezuela’s Electoral Council Says 50,000 Dead Remain on Voter Registration Lists

Electoral Council board member Jorge Rodriguez said that the deceased would be removed from the voter registration list. Also, the council is looking for fingerprint reading machines for the upcoming referendum.

Caracas, June 23, 2004 — Electoral Council Board member Jorge Rodriguez said today that the national voter registration file will have to be carefully reviewed because it is estimated that as many as 50,000 dead Venezuelans are still on the list.

Rodriguez said, “I believe it is important for all actors that we go to the referendum with an electoral register that has been purified. In the data that we used for the month of May we are excluding 50,000 dead that are registered there.”

It is generally known that in past elections deceased voters were often intentionally left on the voter registration lists so as to enable other voters to vote a second time in the name of a dead citizen. Chavez supporters have argued that the mechanisms for perpetrating this type of fraud are still in place and are controlled by sympathizers of the former ruling parties, especially Acción Democratica (AD). The most recent instance this methods was supposedly used was during the recall referendum petition drive.

Earlier this month Rodriguez had said that the electoral council determined that 15,863 “Lazaruses,” people for which there are death certificates, had participated in the signature re-certification process. 11,256 signatures were substracted from the final count when it was discovered they belonged to people whose death hadn’t been reported to the electoral council.

So as to further protect against fraud and double voting, Rodriguez said that the electoral council was in the process of investigating the feasibility of purchasing fingerprint reading machines, which would register each person’s vote and ensure that they did not vote again under a false name. Members of the opposition, however, have argued that such machines would be much too expensive for Venezuela.

“In process” audits not allowed

Rodriguez also said that there was confusion over what the “in process” audits of the voting machines meant for the upcoming recall referendum. Many news outlets have reported that the electoral council would not allow any audits of the recall referendum vote. Rodriguez clarified that he was talking about “in-process” audits, which refers to audits that are taken during the polling hours, meaning that voting is stopped for a machine, it is opened, and the paper ballots are counted and compared with the computerized result until then.

Electoral Council rules that members of the military may vote

In its regular meeting today, the electoral council said that members of Venezuela’s military would be permitted to vote in the August 15 recall referendum against President Chavez. Under Venezuela’s previous constitutions, the military was not allowed to vote. However, while the new constitution of 1999 does give them the right to vote, the electoral council said that the recall referendum petition was not a vote, but an act of political activism and so the military was not allowed to sign the petitions that requested recall referenda.