Luck of the draw: My day as an electoral trainee

September 22, 2010

By the lack of the draw, I was selected to be part of the group of people manning the voting tables at next Sunday’s Parliamentary elections at the place where I vote. This implied spending the afternoon yesterday as an electoral trainee. No training, no credential, no credential, you can’t participate, which is obligatory. Go figure.

So, at 3 PM sharply I showed up at the public school where the training was to take place. I was sent by a National Guardsman to sit on the wooden steps of the baseball field at the high school to wait for the instructor. There were about 60 or 70 people sitting there with me asking “And now, what?” when at last around 3:25 PM (not bad for Venezuela “time”) the instructor and his helpers showed up.

We were all herded into a hot classroom, about ten to twelve rows deep and the instructor began telling us all the things we would have to do on Sunday beginning at 5 AM.

He was not bad, except that he had clearly memorized all the material and by now was clearly bored to death by it. The supporting material was absolutely awful as you can see above, where the instructor is explaining the seven steps to the installation of a voting table. Yes, each of those seven pie slices contains diagrams of little people, indicating the function of each of the members of the voting table. I was sitting on the second row and could not read the small letters.

I only saw two or three nerdy people like me taking notes of everything, the rest of the people either were bored to death or had no idea what the guy was talking about. A lot of time was spent on rules and technicalities such as what happens when a blind or crippled person comes to vote. Could not understand why it is that senior citizens have priority to vote first, but some of them are selected to spend 16-17 hours manning the voting stations. The guy also discussed the ever present Venezuelan issue: When and how to decide to close down voting. Seems fairly straightforward, but never is.

After a couple of hours of hours of training, the session was over and we all had to stand around and wait for half an hour for our credentials to be typed, so we can get into the voting places.

The atmosphere was very cordial, everyone seemed happy to have been selected as long as they gave you an interesting job. Many people did not want to do the boring jobs like organizing people in lines and the like. But since the training is random, those that are alternates or reserves will not know until tomorrow at 8 AM whether they may do a more interesting job.

So, Sunday I will take my cell phone and will try to give you updates when I get some time, but in general I will know very little of what is going on outside my voting center.

32 Responses to “Luck of the draw: My day as an electoral trainee”

  1. Susan Says:

    Meanwhile in the States:

    Diane Wickberg didn’t intend to become a public defender of the First Amendment. But now that she’s found herself in that position, she’s not backing down from the fight.
    The 55-year-old Flagstaff grandmother, with the help of the Goldwater Institute, is suing Coconino County Recorder Candace Owens after Wickberg was twice stopped at the polls for wearing a “tea party” T-shirt.
    Every Tuesday for the past two years, Wickberg has attended a meeting of her Flagstaff tea-party group wearing a T-shirt that depicts the American flag and the Constitution. On May 18, the day of the state sales-tax vote, Wickberg said she threw on that T-shirt and a pair of jeans, drove her 11-year-old grandson to school and headed to her polling place.
    “I’m a jeans and T-shirt person,” said Wickberg, who works as a fundraiser for her grandson’s school. “I didn’t think about what I was wearing.”
    She was told by a poll worker that she needed to either change her shirt or cover it up.
    “They said the shirt I was wearing was making a political statement,” Wickberg said. “All it says is ‘We the People – Reclaiming our Constitution.’ ” Chavism spreading ??? S.

  2. Susan Says:

    From the BBC:

    Opposition to gain seats… S

  3. Ira Says:

    I have a weird feeling that a lot of opposition candidates may be Chavista plants–acting as the opposition, but then voting Chavista once they’re in.

    I know this shows an incredible paranoia on my part, that this is a baseless claim with nothing to back it up.


    In Chavez’s Venezuela, I think that anything is possible.

  4. A_Antonio Says:

    The best photo of force correlation will be the results of tomorrow election. For the photo, we will have to count the totals of votes, not the totals of congressman elected.

    I expect that opposition will get at least more of 1/3 of congress. It will be more fun in politic’s arena, and will represent some hope that things can be changed for better, in the future.

    I hope and desire for all, some good destiny, tomorrow and beyond.

  5. Humberto Says:


    I am looking forward to your post-election blog!

    A friend of mine had to do duty as well and she tells me a big deal was who actually brings the food at noon. By then, you will be very hungry and it may be the PSUV, or it may be the MUD that comes by with trays of food.

    The deal is that this buys “sympathy”. I have no idea what good sympathy is but it would be good to know.

    I for one will vote at the NYC consulate. It will be mostly a symbolic gesture because, among other things, venezuelan expats don’t have national assembly representation. We vote only for the “Parlatino” a sort of LatAm parliament of mysterious but probably completely irrelevant functions.

  6. moctavio Says:

    According to our instructor, after the audit, the only valid result is still the machine count. If there is a significant discrepancy between the machine and the audit, the Junta Electoral and the CNE will investigate ony if this investigation yields that there was a problem will the vote be changed. This has happened rarely.

  7. GWEH Says:

    note raid happens day after FARC boss killed… coincidence?

  8. GWEH Says:

    video of FBI executing warrant on FARC sympathizers

  9. GWEH Says:

    a peak into the mind of Jessica Sundin from 2000:

    I’m very concerned about your decision to shut down the BURN!
    web-server. It is my understanding that you have submitted to the
    demands of right-wing Colombians who disagree with some of the
    material hosted on burn.

    No media source should submit to that kind of censorship, but
    especially an academic institution. Many University of Minnesota
    students rely on resources, like those on the Burn server, to access
    information about the social conflicts in Colombia, Mexico, and

    Specifically, the site that Burn hosted for the FARC (Colombian
    guerrilla organization), should not be kept off the web because of
    pressure from those who oppose them. The FARC is recognized by
    most nations in the world as a legitimate “belligerent force,”
    meaning they have a legitimate political claim and the right to have
    diplomatic relations with the world, on par with organizations like
    South Africa’s African National Congress under apartheid.

    Moreover, the FARC is a significant force that is shaping the history
    of Colombia, and Sout h America. Students of Latin America,
    political science, peace studies and related areas will benefit greatly
    from access to information directly from the FARC about their plans
    for Colombia, and, for example, the peace process there.

    I urge you to act QUICKLY to put the BURN server back on-line.

    Jessica Sundin

  10. GWEH Says:

    OT: the FBI terrorism arrests that just went down in USA are FARC and probably Chavista related too. Tom Burke and Jessica Sundin are known FARC sympathizers (and where there’s FARC there Chavez)

  11. metodex Says:

    where are american mind control tools when we need them.Or are they already using them? :O

  12. firepigette Says:

    can’t wait to hear your reports

  13. jeffry house Says:

    Miguel, you are risking “Opposition Escualidos propose drugging election officials!” as the subject of an investigation by the Fiscalia.

  14. Roberto N Says:

    Maybe MO will get one of those troublemakers at his center.

    Take some Ex Lax and slip it into his/her coffee Miguel. One piece of chocolate Ex Lax would do it, so to keep the troublemaker out of your hair, use the whole bar.

    What the hell, quizas le salga todita la mi**da que tienen el la cabeza!

  15. megaescualidus Says:


    My wife’s sister got “selected”, like you, on the last two elections (in fact, she was “Presidente de Mesa”). The area she lives at, in San Cristobal (Tachira) is as Oppo as it gets. Nonetheless, there were different shades of Chavista people also assigned to work on the “mesas”. There were some pro-Chavez people that were willing to hear some reason when something came up. And there were others that were clearly sent with a mission to cause trouble thoughout the entire day. In fact, one of them was caught by one of the GN (National Guards, who have treir orders to tilt the balance towards the government) stealing ballots, seriously, stealling ballots (as of, artfully removing ballots from a polling station when at the end of the day “no one was looking” and attempting to take them with her out of the voting area).

    No matter how anti “rojo rojito” your home area is there will be Chavistas sent with a purpose to disrupt the event. Now that you’ll be “embedded” I’m very curious to know what you may have to comment about the election after the fact.

  16. moctavio Says:

    BTW My mesa was installed. Chavista witnesses were all women. All very well trained and prepared. Opposition witnesses were boith male and female. I thought it was strange that the Chavista ladies asked for a moment of prayer before we began. it included a prayer so that out mesa is not audited and we can leave early on Sunday.

  17. moctavio Says:

    On elegibility: yes the subject was covered extensevely. If you are not in the “notebook” you can’t vote, if you have ink on finger, you can’t, etc. etc. I did not like the fact that if you exceeed 6 minutes your vote does not count, but understand it could be used to boycott process.

    On counting: yes, they described in detail how you select the tables to be audited and how the process goes.

    They also covered in a too much detail how to decide the voting is over.

    yes, ink is used. Also, remember the infamous fingerprint machines, they will be used too, but only locally, not connected to anything.

    You can vote for someone else if you have an id for that person and know that the person will not vote.

  18. Kepler Says:

    Millionaire revolutionary Ramírez Chacín has two cédulas.

  19. island canuck Says:

    Jeffry people are inked but in the last election it was easily removed.

    Can’t remember if it was nail polisher remover or bleach but it came off easily.

    Another thing is that they don’t require a secondary ID like a driver’s licence which would be useless because it doesn’t contain an address.

    Multiple ID voting is relatively simple unless someone on the mesa recognizes you.

  20. Kepler Says:

    Miguel, what about not counting the “votos lista” but the votos nominales?
    Anything about that?

  21. jeffry house Says:

    Are voters “inked” so they cannot vote at multiple polling stations with multiple id? Is there a pre-existing list of eligible voters who have been canvassed to insure they actually exist where they reportedly live?

  22. Gochito Says:

    I was selected too… The only thing that draw my attention was the excesive emphasis that was put into the fact that “votes will be counted in 55% of the tables” and that it was an agreement of all political parties… Of all the people that I have asked, they all agree that that was mentioned over and over…. Weird.

  23. Ira Says:

    Two questions:

    1) Did the training sufficiently cover the subject of voter eligibility, so no one is improperly turned away or no one can vote multiple times?

    2) Did it cover what happens to the voting machines when the polling is over and it’s time to count? Is the counting done at your station in front of witnesses, or does it take a magical carpet ride to Chavista dens across the country?

  24. Kepler Says:

    Miguel, thanks for your work. I suppose there won’t be many issues in your voting centre, but one never knows. Keep an eye on ’em bastards.


    David Cameron is left-handed. Obama, Bush senior and Bill Clinton are left-handed too. Ronald Reagan was left-handed. Bill Gates is left-handed.

    Yeah, I know: Hitler was left-handed as well. In reality there is little difference for anything but sports in left-handedness distribution: you do piss off your right-handed opponent if you are playing (table) tennis. I am left-handed and I have repudiated Chavismo since day 1.

  25. moctavio Says:

    I was talking about their politics….

  26. bruni Says:

    Miguel, not just Hugo! Remember that Tibisay is left handed as well!

  27. moctavio Says:

    If I have time I can post to the blog, if not Twitter @moctavio

  28. odef007 Says:

    Dear Host: Moctavio – wow cool.

    Please do take care about the phone. Your not supposed to take pictures and you may get accused and booted. You need 8 eyes and 3 hands. Don’t leave the table unless you have fainted and you have called a right handed 2nd to take your place before you fainted  We only get the parlatino here. If you can update how- do you tweet? If so may I follow please? I’m going to be locked on CNN/Globo when I get back.

    On this note I would like to express how concerned I am about the PPT.
    I fear that they are a Trojan Horse and will kiss and make up with Chavez after the election. Especially after a herd of PSUVistas walking the plank to that side yesterday. There is a time to Vote for the Person and a time to Vote for the Party. With so much on the line the only trust I have is with the Parties in the MUD. ( I wish that acronym did not sound so bad in English) Anyone else have this gut feeling/fear ?

    Another thing… why are there so many Political Parties? This makes all of
    them weak. Way to many Alpha Dogs.

  29. liz Says:

    Bruni, don’t be cruel! HAHAHAHA!
    Miguel, do tell us if they give you any food or allow your wife to bring you lunch. Me muero por saber todos los chismes de primera mano 🙂

  30. moctavio Says:

    There is no question, the lefties will decide the election, ask Hugo!

  31. bruni Says:

    Jajaja! I have not stopped laughing since I knew about it !

    Looking forward to your post-election post.

    Do remember to take statistics: women, versus man, old versus young and in particular, lefties versus right handed!

    Good luck!

  32. JULI Says:

    querido Miguel te felicito por haber sido elegido,j

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