Caracas, July 16, 2004— Jennifer McCoy, the Carter Center`s Americas director, said yesterday during a press conference that the National Electoral Council (CNE) rules that govern the activities of international observers during the upcoming recall referendum will not be an obstacle to their work. McCoy said, “we have an understanding between ourselves and the CNE about the regulations, which are compatible with our plans and our work methods.” The Carter Center delegation, whose number has not yet been specified, is scheduled to arrive in Venezuela on August 11.
The CNE`s rules for election monitoring were called too restrictive by many opposition leaders because they do not allow the observers to issue statements about the referedum while voting is in process.
47 other international observer missions have been invited from all around the world, with 30 of these coming from Latin America. Also, numerous international celebrities will be invited, such as Michael Moore, Rigoberta Menchu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Michail Gorbtachov, Nelson Mandela, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Joseph Stiglitz.
Deceased voters elminated from voter registry
Due to a supreme Court resolution that was passed last June 28, the CNE was ordered to “purify” the national voter registry by eliminating all deceased persons from the list. Many government supporters have maintained that the deceased are used by opposition parties, which still control many local CNE offices, to organize fraud. Since July 9 another 9,412 names of deceased persona have been discovered, in addition to over 50,000 names of deceased persons that had been eliminated previously.
300 new voting centers and 2.8 million new voters
While only a few days ago CNE board member Jorge Rodriguez had declared that no new voting centers would be installed, CNE President Francisco Carrasquero announced yestrerday that 300 new centers would be installed in previously underserved neighborhoods. A few weeks ago Jorge Rodriguez had argued that an increase in the number of voting centers was necessary because of their very uneven distribution, such that poor neighborhoods had in some cases one tenth the number of centers, per capita, as wealthy neighborhoods.
Also yesterday, Carrasquero said that the number of new voters, relative to the last election in 2000, was 2.8 million, thus increasing Venezuela´s total number of registered voters to over 14 million. This means, that at participation of 65%, which is fairly common in Venezuela, the opposition would have to gather at least 4.5 million votes. For the recall referendum petition, the opposition had collected about 2.5 million valid signatures.
Voting machine contract signed
On Wednesday the CNE fianlly signed the contract with Smartmatic for $27 million, to provide 20,000 touchscreen voting machines that will be used in the August 15 presidential recall referendum.
Opposition leaders had rejected the use of the touchscreens, arguing that it would enable the government to cheat. CNE officials, however, maintain that the system will be completely transparent and that the technology will allow for a much more efficient process than a manual one. Also, unlike most of the touchscreen systems in the U.S., the Venezuelan will print out paper ballots that will allow for a manual recount, if necessary.