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Venezuela: Signature claims to begin on March 11

By Eugenio Martinez, El Universal

The CNE will install 640 claim counters nationwide with fingerprint recognition technology for citizens who want to ratify or withdraw their signatures. The National Electoral Council (CNE) decided that all citizens whose signatures requesting recall elections are in signature collection forms with similar handwriting must demonstrate that they really signed the petitions.

The institution is now expected to discuss and approve the rules for the claims that the petitioners are entitled to. The points in the agenda include the length of the objection period, which is set to begin on March 11, and the installation of 640 claim counters nationwide with fingerprint recognition technology.

In the second half of March

Consequently, the final ruling on whether the 62 pending recall petitions are sufficiently backed will be announced, presumably, during the second half on next month.

The directors of the CNE have reiterated that they will present the preliminary results on the signature verification process by February 29. The following step will be the immediate publishing of the identification card numbers associated to the seven million signatures submitted to request referenda to revoke the mandate of President Chávez and a number of pro-government and opposition deputies.

Publishing such an amount of identification card numbers, classified as accepted, rejected and objected signatures, will require 16 El Universal-size standard supplements of 36 pages each.

Set to appear between March 1 and 10, the whole edition of the numbers -alone- would weight as much as 2.5 kilograms. The complexity of publishing the results in a printed media, an unprecedented event for the CNE, is behind the decision of postponing the start of the claims period until March 11.

French devices

The preliminary results of the signature verification process suggest that 213,000 signature collection forms for the presidential recall vote will be included in the objection stage.

Of this number, 148,190 forms have problems derived from the uniform handwriting. Additionally, 171,359 forms backing referendum petitions against opposition legislators and 83,127 against pro-government deputies are also part of the material under question.

The CNE has announced that its 640 claim counters will be located at regional, state and municipal levels. The electronic devices for the identification of the citizens who want to ratify or withdraw their signatures will be provided by the French firm Sagem.

Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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