The discussion at the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) has turned now to those forms in which the handwriting is the same for each signature, but the signature itself is different. The issue is typical of how complicated the whole petition process has become and how every little nook and cranny is being searched in order to find an excuse to disqualify signatures.
According to the regulations created by this CNE, when a petition is turned in, the signatures would be checked in order to make sure the data for the person signing corresponds to the data in the electoral registry. A signature could be disqualified, if the data did not match, was not clear or legible or if there were smudges, overlaps or irregularities.
What both the opposition, in the case of the presidential recall, and the Chavistas, for the case of the recall of opposition Deputies did, was to have at each post one or two tables where the person at the table would fill out the form for old people, people who were unsure of their handwriting or anyone that asked for it. In the case if the “itinerant” petition forms, most were instructed to fill out the forms for the people to guarantee that it would be done properly. In both cases, itinerant or not, teams had witnesses from both sides of the political spectrum, so that the process was carefully monitored.
Well, now there is at least intent to question all of the signatures gathered in this fashion, which implies changing the rules in the middle of the game. The regulations were quite clear that the handwriting was only an important factor for the signature, and that the data had to match.
Two developments concern me at this point. First of all, one CNE Director says that people will have five days to go to the CNE and confirm they signed the recall petition. This is simply absurd, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people having to go to the CNE to ratify they did something that nobody has a reason to question. Moreover, it affects precisely the group that would have the hardest time being able to mobilize to the CNE: the old and the poor. Additionally, the Chavistas have taken over the area surrounding the CNE. The second source of concern is that now the CNE has decided, in a vote of three to two with the usual split between the two sides. to verify again the forms for the states from A to L, which had already been checked once.
Thus, as a member of the diplomatic core told an opposition politician “You Venezuelans are atypical; you have turned a simple gathering of signatures into the labyrinth of Crete”. Quite true, this is more complicated than any election and with these decisions, it is impossible for the CNE to decide anything by Friday’s deadline. In fact, this pushes things further into the future and the country further into an undesirable confrontation.