Caracas, October 11, 2004—A vote-simulation conducted by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) occurred without any major problems, yesterday. Pretend-voters were led through the complicated voting process, which will use the same electronic voting machines as last August’s recall referendum.
In the upcoming regional elections scheduled to take place on October 31st Venezuelans will elect mayors, governors, and city councilors. This means that in many areas voters will have to vote up to 8 times. Given that many of these positions will be contested by a myriad of political figures and parties, the results may likely be quite confusing. The sheer amount of information presented to voters may account for the surprisingly long average vote time recorded during the simulation: more than two minutes per person. The CNE hopes to reduce that number to 1.7 or 1.5 minutes through an aggressive nation-wide education campaign on the voting process.
A prime concern for the CNE and for Venezuelan voters has been the reorganization of voting stations and other measures designed to avoid the long lineups witnessed during the referendum. Many voters were forced to wait in line for as many as 12 hours due to unanticipated high voter turn-out. According to Jorge Rodriguez, President of the National Electoral Committee—a branch of the CNE—the CNE has made the necessary changes to avoid extended waiting periods. Rodriguez noted that during yesterday’s simulation, wait times were sufficiently reduced, allowing voters to move quickly to their voting booths and cast their votes.
However, CNE President Francisco Carresquero is concerned that the experience of last August’s long lines, may account for the simulation’s low turnout. According to Carrasquero, this is a “worrisome indicator” that may reflect high abstention rates in the actual election on October 31st. “Abstention isn’t good for any country, if we want to consolidate a real democracy,” noted Carrasquero late yesterday.According to CNE member Tibisay Lucena, the results of the simulation will be announced later this week, after CNE technicians have thoroughly examined the voting machines that took part. The simulation was conducted in a randomly selected series of voting stations from all 24 Venezuelan states.