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Electoral Musings: How about those null votes!

By Miguel Octavio | The Devil's Excrement

16.08.05 | Even though Daniel is the Electoral blogger expert, I have tried all week to understand the results from last Sunday’s municipal elections, without much luck. Then today the CNE announces that data on its website is just wrong, which certainly does not help. No explanation to how this happened, but an institution that first told us in real time how many people had voted, then took almost day to give us results, has now taken a week to “straighten them out”, or at least tell us that they are not correct. So much for transparency!

My problems began last week when the CNE announced abstention was 69.2% , so I quickly calculated that 4.37 million people had voted for someone. But the numbers did not make much sense even then. Chavez’ MVR had received 1.3 million slate votes, which was only 30% of the total vote, not the higher numbers (38%) being announced by that party’s leaders and colorfully shown in the CNE’s website. Even harder to understand was that MVR had only obtained the votes of only 9.1% of possible voters. So much for Chavez’ popularity. But that was the truth. Even with the extra three hours, which are questionable from a legal point of view, in which reportedly 481 thousand people voted, Chavez’ MVR had only obtained 9.1 % of the votes of all eligible voters. I would be worried if i were them The revolution seems to be running out of gas.

But the numbers still did not make sense until it was announced that of the 4.3 million votes, 766 thousand and were null or voided. How do you explain that? So far I have not heard a single good explanation, from the CNE, the Government or the opposition..

You see, in order to have your vote voided or nullified there were only two ways of doing it. One, don’t vote for anyone and press the “Vote” button. Two, wait three minutes, don’t vote, ask for an extension, three minutes go by, still no vote. While the second option was proposed by some as a better one than abtaining, as it required those manning the polls to register it as a null vote, I heard nobody mention that this actually happened in large numbers. At 766 thousand null votes, this was roughly 38 per voting machine and most machines had about one to two hundred voters, so it would have been quite noticeable if this had happened. None of the people manning the tables that I talked to, said this was the case in their machine.

So, what is the explanation for these 766 thousand votes? To think that a number of people which is equivalent to 57% of the people that voted for Chavez’ party, decided to vote for nobody, seems truly amazing. It would make them instantly the second largest political force, or at least voting political force in the country.

But you see, Venezuelans are well known for their “economy” of the vote. Venezuelans hate to lose a vote, which sometimes has led them to vote for the “winner” just so that they could say they did. In fact, in the vote to recall Chavez in which 9.8 million people voted, only 26,000 votes were voided, thirty times fewer than in this election, but less than half the number of people went to vote this time around compared to the recall vote. Strange, no? All of a sudden we have a “silent almost majority” that sponteusly decides to vote the same way.

Unless, the problem is technical. But you see, once you voted the machine would print up your vote so that you were sure that it registered your wish, so if there was a technical glitch, people would have realized that something was not working properly. And at least one machine per voting center was counted manually.

Or, God forbid, we could suggest some form of electronic/software conspiracy to allow the data to “fit” the desires of the Government. Like pollster Alfredo Keller who voted for an acquaintance for citycouncil, saw the printout was correct, but that candidate got no votes at that poll booth.Or maybe that would explain how Carmen Lopez, Haydee Delgado and Marlene Carpio, received no votes in their attempts to get elected as councilwomen of Petare, despite the fact that they assure us that their family voted for them, but in any case they are sure they voted for themselves. But their votes are nowhere to be found. They got zero votes (0), each and everyone of them. Explain that Jimmy Carter! These three ladies were candidates for the infamous Tupamaros party, who after protesting all week of being robbed, received a direct warning from one of their leaders, that anyone accusing the Government of fraud would be disciplined, proving that despite its claims to now be a democratic organization, it maintains its strict militarist and hierarchical structure. Unless, of course, somebody got to them (money?), but how can I even think of that in this so ethical revolution.

And it has been the Tupamaros that have been so far in the middle of this sea of null votes. In Aragua, the Tupamaros claim they won 5 positions in the Negro Primero district, but somehow their votes disappeared as the null ones went up and they got none, talk about being nullified!. They denounced the same in Aragua and Sucre States.

The opposition did not do well either, that is very clear. But it does not help when half of it is calling for people not to go and vote. Primero Justicia only got 144 thousand votes nationwide, but they were focused on only a few municipalities most of which they won control of. Rosales in Zulia did very well, capturing 68% of all councilmen in Zulia by using the same unethical and illegal “morochas” that Chavez and UVE did. Some will argue that all is fair in love and war. I will argue that if it takes a thief to beat a thief, I may always be in the opposition if this is what it takes to get rid of Chavez.

Below is the table with the electoral results taken from Tal Cual, which I am sure, can not vouch for them. Unfortunately, neither can the Electoral Board (CNE). So much for US$ 130 million spent in voting machines to make the process cleaner and transparent. We know as much (or as little) today as we did when the voting was manual. Except that then we could see and count the votes, each and every one of them. Go figure!

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