Caracas, August 10, 2004—One week before Venezuela’s presidential referendum, the country’s only officially recognized electoral authority, the National Electoral Council (CNE) is trying to anticipate possible problems prior to the election this Sunday, August 15, which includes a challenge by opposition governor Enrique Mendoza, and an investigation into CANTV, the Venezuelan telecommunications giant in charge of transmitting voter data.
CNE President Francisco Carrasquero announced yesterday that he will use “the heavy hand” and sanction those who would project referendum results before the official tally, referring to declarations made by Mendoza, governor of the state of Miranda, who said he would announce partial results of the recall referendum at 2pm on the day of the referendum, four hours before the polls close. “The CNE will not hesitate in activating the legal mechanisms to sanction the guilty,” Carrasquero said, adding that the statements made by Mendoza prepare the ground for serious problems, and for the electoral referee’s authority to be denied.
Mendoza, on the other hand, dismissed the statements made by the head of the country’s electoral authority, saying that Carrasquero would make better use of his time focusing on the recall referendum rather than “wasting time criticizing what others say.”
Carrasquero reminded the media of their legal responsibilities during the referendum.
The media is prohibited by law to transmit information regarding results and if they do, that may result in the closure or cutting of signals of the media outlets involved, Carrasquero said.
On the technical front, the CNE approved its contingency plan in case of computer failure or sabotage on the day of the referendum. The contingency plan says that if one computer fails, elections officials will have 30 minutes to fix it and if it is not resolved, they will have 60 minutes to replace it. If the problem is still not resolved within that time, manual voting, with paper ballots will be used. Under no circumstances will voting be suspended at any table with problems. However, if events beyond the control of the CNE disrupt voting (“force majeure”), that would affect the entire process, voting can be suspended.
Given testing this past Sunday, those problems are not anticipated. CNE board member Rodriguez announced that the technology to be used during the recall referendum is 100 per cent sound. Tests resulted in a zero per cent error rate for the computers to be used for voting and no errors were detected in the scrutinizing and tally process, as well as in the data transmission process.
Also, fingerprint scanning computers that will be used to compare fingerprints against those who have already voted, so as to prevent double voting will not result in any delays according to the CNE. CNE officials call the fingerprint scanners, an “auxiliary guarantee process,” and as such cannot stall the referendum process, according to CNE statutes.