Venezuelans Test out New Voting System Ahead of Elections

Over 226,000 Venezuelans were eligible to try out Venezuela’s new electronic voting system yesterday, in a test run of the new electoral machines prior to the country’s national elections in October this year.

By Rachael Boothroyd

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A voter places their voting card in the secret ballot box
A voter places their voting card in the secret ballot box (lasaeta)
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August 6th 2012, Liverpool (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Over 226,000 Venezuelans were eligible to try out Venezuela’s new electronic voting system yesterday, in a test run of the new electoral machines prior to the country’s national elections in October this year.

Venezuela’s new voting system, called the Integrated Authentication System (SAI), requires voters to activate machines by having their finger prints scanned, before moving on to vote directly for their preferred candidate on a computer screen. The machine then prints off the voting card, which is subsequently placed in a secret ballot by the voter.

The model is considered to be superior to pencil and paper methods as there is less room for errors, and opportunities for fraudulent ballots to be cast through identity theft are also minimised.

“All reports indicated that this mock voting day went perfectly, everybody involved was present, we verified the attendance of the electoral witnesses at the designated time and we opened the centres at 8am without problems,” said director of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Socorro Hernandez.

Yesterday’s “trial run” was a chance for voters to familiarise themselves with the new system and to verify that the machines are in working order. The CNE also stated that the test, which was held at 55 centres through the country, allowed them to estimate average user times in anticipation of the elections.

Following a successful run-through, members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) commented on the effectiveness of the new system, with regional coordinator for the PSUV in Nueva Esparta, Rosario Pacheco, describing the day as a testament to the “democratic celebration” that the country is experiencing.

“It is evidence that participatory and protagonistic democracy is being consolidated through the full exercise of the right to vote,” she said.

Voters who took part in the day’s events also seemed to be similarly impressed with the new technology.

“Everything was really quick, (and) it was well attended. I am sure that on election day I’ll be able to do it even more quickly because I was able to do the test-run today,” said Ambar de Montero from Caracas.

Despite a less favourable verdict from the opposition bloc, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), who claimed that some hold-ups were experienced in certain voting centres, MUD Party Secretary, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, affirmed that waiting times were “reasonable” and that it was necessary to “dispel” rumours that the vote isn’t secret in Venezuela.

All voters registered on the electoral lists of the 55 designated centres were able to vote in yesterday’s trial run and voter participation ranged from 12% in the Andean state of Trujillo to 90% in San Cristobal, a city in the Colombian border state of Tachira.