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Venezuela's Electoral Council

By Michael Rowan, El Universal

29.09.04 - The CNE possesses the capability to conduct a transparent electoral process free of charges of fraud, but did not do so in the Recall Referendum and apparently does not plan to do so in the upcoming regional elections. All it has to do is follow the election law, and make voting easy and convenient for the voters. Here's what the CNE could have done in the RR and could do in the regional elections:

The paper ballots can be counted and certified at each voting center in full sight of election officials, contesting parties to the election, official observers, and voters at that center who desire to observe the counting and certification in person. The paper ballots can be recounted in total or by random sample audit the day after the election, as needed or demanded by legitimate parties to the election. The electronic count can be used as a preliminary count subject to the paper ballot count, which is final. The hardware and software of the electoral machines can be provided for open inspection and audits before and after the election. Standards for observation of the election can open the entire process to genuine observation. The norms, rules and regulations for voter registration, the election schedule, and the election process can be provided in advance to all parties, voters, and observers in advance of the election, and not be modified in mid-course except by mutual agreement. Basic control of the election-day process can be returned to the local voting centers and open participation of citizens, rather than centralizing control in CNE electronic machines and operators that operate out of sight.

The CNE was capable of conducting a fully transparent RR but did not do so. By not counting the paper ballots in favor of an electronic count entirely in its control, the CNE was not transparent. When exit polls and statistical analysis cast doubt on its vote count, the CNE refused to recount the paper ballots to assure voters that its count was accurate. This lack of integrity in the electoral process gives rise to voter cynicism and may lead to abstention in the regional elections and illegitimacy for those elected. The CNE is not doing its job. It has failed, and miserably so.

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