Monday, July 17, 2006

Venezuela: Chavez Voter Rolls Looking Very Suspicious

While I have been kind of transfixed by what is going on in Mexico, with the challenges and what not, this item sort of slipped through.

Actually it has been going on for a while. It is the whole situation with the voter roles in Venezuela. Many of the Venezuelan bloggers have been doing some dogged work on this, the government appears to have been fighting a delaying action which was not hard to do because of the issues involved. Writing in October, this is more less the positions as set out nicely byCaracas Chronicles :

Most Chavez opponents in Venezuela are convinced there was fraud in the 2004 referendum on whether Chavez should stay in office. However, international observers monitoring the election, including the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, noted several irregularities in the run-up to the referendum but said there was no clear evidence of fraud. Few people outside Venezuela believe the fraud theories.

The opposition counters that the observers had no experience monitoring electronic voting, and the elections council pulled the wool over their eyesThe evidence the opposition has produced for fraud is complex, and hinges on the interpretation of strange patterns of electronic communications between electronic machines and their headquarters, together with complex statistical techniques for detecting fraudulent data. I'm not really qualified to evaluate it. However, most credible polls on the eve of the referendum had Chavez comfortably ahead.

So it's hard to say.

Independently of whether there was fraud in the actual vote tallying, however, there are clear signs of irregularities in several other parts of the process, including huge numbers of suspicious new voters in the electoral registry, and a general lack of transparency. Worse still, though the voting machines we use produce a "paper trail", the elections authorities have steadfastly refused repeated requests to tally all the paper ballots they generate, further fueling distrust in the setup. Opposition observers describe the electronic voting system as a "black box" - with good reason.

Again, the very complexity of the issue makes it hard to both report or make it a campaign issue. And it is an ongoing process, and as more information has come out there seems to be more evidence that something funny went on, and the mainstream press talks about it. Here is a good post about it at the Devil's Excrement.

Recently, someone actually leaked the complete Electoral Registry for all but one state (Amazonas) to the Social Christian party COPEI. The findings are just incredible:

1) Between January 2004 and May 2004, two million new voters were registered. Of these, 1.7 million do not have addresses.

2) 2.1 million voters in the registry have the same address: Quinta Margabel in the El Llanito area of Caracas, Miranda State. This is a small house whose owner is dead. Now, what is interesting is that these voters are found to vote in many states from Nueva Esparta (Margarita Island) to Tachira in the border with Colombia.

3) 4 million voters have as an address the cryptic entry: D.L. 345 P.N.I.

This means that more than 8 million voters are illegally registered to vote. You see, Art. 100 of the suffrage law states that voters are obligated to provide the address of their residence and if you change residences you have 45 days to provide your new data. Not doing is penalized by law.