Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) is expected to successfully ﬁnish the audit of April’s presidential vote this Saturday June 8th.
The audit seeks to check 100% of the votes cast on April 14th, when Chavista candidate Nicolas Maduro beat conservative candidate Henrique Capriles by 50.61% to 49.12% of the vote.
70% of votes were subject to random sample checks on voting day itself, with the other 30% being audited in a widened “phase II” exercise from April 29th to June 8th.
Venezuela employs an electronic voting system, where the voter selects their candidate on a touch-screen machine. The machine then prints off a paper “receipt” for the voter to conﬁrm their choice, which is deposited in a ballot box afterwards.
CNE president Tibisay Lucena conﬁrmed on Monday that with 95% of votes audited, a 99.98% correspondence had been recorded between the paper and electronic information held by voting centers and the data transmitted to the National Totaling Center, from where the ﬁnal result was emitted.
CNE ofﬁcials explain that the 0.02% of discrepancies do not represent an alteration of the voter’s choice, but are anomalies such as when a voter destroys their paper receipt instead of placing it in the correct ballot box for storage.
Candidate representatives, external auditors from the Central University of Venezuela, CNE technicians, and 141 representatives from civil society groups have participated in the audit, which was transmitted live on television.
The widened “phase II” audit of the presidential vote was organized by the CNE after opposition candidate Henrique Capriles refused to recognize the result.
Capriles initially accepted the widened audit, then rejected it, making demands that the CNE regarded as “impossible” to fulﬁll, such a verifying the ﬁngerprints of almost 15 million people on the electoral register.
Nevertheless the CNE went ahead with the widened audit to check 100% of votes. In response, Capriles lodged a challenge to the results with the country’s Supreme Court. The opposition leader states that he expects nothing to come of this, and that he will next take his claims to international bodies.
According to Tibisay Lucena, the CNE “has made clear that any irregularity or disagreement with the election” must be based on veriﬁable evidence, something which the CNE says the opposition has not yet presented.
Venezuela’s voting system is highly regarded by electoral organizations, and former US President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center has termed it “the best in the world”. The result of the April presidential election has been recognized by all countries in the region and wider world, with the exception of the United States.
Further, the Venezuelan opposition has come under ﬁre for engaging in a “two-faced discourse” toward Venezuela’s electoral system.
The accusations come after the opposition welcomed the CNE’s announcement of municipal elections to be held in December, calling on their supporters to participate.
Carlos Oscariz, the mayor of Sucre municipality in Miranda state and close ally of Capriles, said to press, “We put out the call to exercise the right to vote…We’ll thrash whoever they [Chavismo] put against us in Sucre as we’ve done in other electoral processes”.
Meanwhile Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, executive secretary of the opposition MUD coalition, afﬁrmed of the municipal elections, “We’re going to participate with all we’ve got”. He also defended the security of the vote, stating, “Where the citizen votes, that vote cannot be substituted, no one changes that vote”.
Such statements were criticized by leaders of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who pointed to a contradiction between taking such a stance while at the same time claiming that the CNE had committed fraud in the presidential election.
“It’s a demonstration of the contradictions of the rightwing. One day they say the CNE is worthy and conduct their own internal elections with this electoral system, another day they go to state governor elections, win, and recognize that, and another day they lose an election and so don’t recognize the CNE”, stated PSUV spokesperson Hector Rodriguez.