Archive for September 25th, 2010

A day in the life of an electoral worker in Venezuela

September 25, 2010

Back home sixteen hours after I left. This is the end of this post, now we start the rumors and the wait. That will be the next post. Drinking some wine,  we did a good job, at least there is that satisfaction, thanks all for “watching”

8:05 PM Joy to the world! No audit for me! We now have to sign everything and pack up votes, results and materials and we are done!!!

In my table it is 90% nominal vote for the opposition, this is higher than usual

6 PM it’ closing time, final tally 345 voters 62.18% of those eligible, for the full school the number is higher 64.1%. Order is to shut down if nobody in line. Witnesses walking in now en masse to view audits, 5 out of 8 tables in my center get audits. Hopefully mine does not, very tiring, ready to finish and go. Dont believe rumors, until tables are shut down a real estimate is alnost impossible.

5PM We are at 340, so we will be very close to 65%, 12 more voters in the last hour, some tables in my center have slightly higher percentages, others lower, this is just a little better than the 2009 referendum.

4 PM there has been no real pick up, only ten voters between 3 and 4 PM , we are at exatly 60 % we need to average 27 voters per hour in the last two hours to get to 70% lools tough, but people say it will pick up now based on experience. 328 at this time.

3 PM People clearly having lunch, it slowed down by now, small lines, we even had time to eat something . We are at 318 around 58% so far. Wish I had time to read about the outside world, this is very intense and tiring, but we still have hours to go. Rainibg now hard in Caracas.

2 pm We are up to 293 which means we are over 50% and likely to go into the upper 60’s, better than in 2009

1 pm: First big problem, voting machine jammed voter did not notice, voted twice. Nobody knew exactly what to do. One ballot is dropped in box, a report is written, the lines grows. Bummer. We had been very efficient. 250 voters at this time. That’ like 46% with five hours to go. Hungry!

Noon: we have 214 voters so far, 39% of the total that is about normal for this center. One machine still down , has to be replaced

11:00 AM We are up to 178 at this time, a slight acceleration. The bottleneck now is at the fingerprint machines. Howewer three of the eight machines were jammed when people pulled the ballot and are not working at this time.

10:00 128 about 40 per hour, that’ s 20% so far, 60 %, if lines stay full

9:00 AM so far 88 slow but faster, small lines, my mouth tastes like iodine from the ink.

8:24 am The biggest bottleneck is the machine, people sometimes fail to make all choices, other times they press twice and it erases the vote. Line is not big but once in a while people get confused and gets backed up. Funniest moment was a guy showed up to complain his father reappeared in the electoral registry, he would have been 127 years old. He wanted his protest registered. It was.

8am Still slow 46

7 am 13 voters, slow

6:28 AM we have been ready a while but no voter has been allowed in, some heated discussionson how to manage lines, pro Chavez coordnator wants people to wait outside, we wantthem inside the school. Are they trying to slow down things?

For the time being, I am in charge of ink ugh, fingerprint machine outside not working yet.

6:01 AM All systems and people ready on time we will bring first voter in in minutes

5:50 am machine is ready as you can see below:

I screwed up somewhere erased the post i wrote earlier, it went something like this

5:15 problem solved, we just walked in without waiting for military coordinator

5:10 Military coordinator for center has not arrived, people are mad, they dont let us in, if he does not show up we will have a revolt. People are in line

4:33 being intense i woke up early to blog, adrenaline flowing a bit sleepy right now.

For comparison purposes my center had 33.4% abstention in the 2009 referendum, today there are 546 voters in the “table” I am working in.

All systems set: Vote, Democracy or…else!

September 25, 2010

Since I have to be at the voting center at 5 AM, I better go to bed early, getting up that early is my only objection to being part of the electoral process. But I am as ready as can be.

We are there, ready for the vote. It is really a freakish show in Venezuela when we have elections. First, we have the involvement of the military, a vestige of the times when we had coups and the like. Well, I guess we need them again. Except it is not clear to me what role they play. They are supposed to be “guarding” the schools and the voting material so you have to wonder where they were when four fingerprint machines were stolen at a voting center in Caracas. In my center that would have been quite difficult, go figure. In any case, we used military even in the days we had no machines.

The second quirky thing is that no alcohol is sold anywhere for three days. Yeap, starting yesterday, you could not purchase any liquor at stores, bars or restaurants. Thus, I had to fight my way around people today at the supermarket to buy some soda that I would have normally bought at a liquor store but they were closed. You have to wonder what consuming alcohol yesterday had to do with how you would vote tomorrow. It was nice of the restaurant I went to today for lunch to serve me wine in coffee mugs, they have my loyalty. The food was very good too.

The people at the supermarket is another quirk. They were packed today. It was as if they would not open for days. It is the feeling that “we don’t know what may happen”, but nothing ever happens after elections in Venezuela. In any case, most supermarkets will open tomorrow anyway, so I am not sure what the lady with the two shopping carts was worried about today.

Campaigning has been shut down for three days in another quirky rule: No campaigning after day x. I can understand no campaigning on voting day, but why three days before?

Oh yeah! We close the border tomorrow all day, while voting lasts. Another one I fail to get.

Chavistas have set up posters with crib sheets on how to vote, a block away from all voting centers. Well, why not, the “tarjeton” (ballot) is so complicated you do need a crib sheet:

And this is only ballot #1 for the two nominal Deputies in my district and the list Deputy, there is a second one for the mysterious Parlatino and the indigenous Deputy. (Another quirk, everyone votes for the indigenous “representatives”)

In the one above you have the possibility of voting in three ovals, like for Chavez’ PSUV top, left, where you would vote List, and its two candidates. But, all parties supporting PSUV, like the communist party (PCV), UPV and MEP have separate choices. Thus voting for any of the top four is essentially the same.

The same happens with the unity candidates, whose votes are mostly at the bottom, for example, way at the bottom you have equal votes for MR, Primero Justicia, Causa R and Podemos. They are all the same, but they are all there. No matter which one you choose, it is the Unity list, Maria Corina Machado and Enrique Mendoza. Only some quirky parties like OPINA only have one oval for the list vote, refusing to endorse Maria Corina Machado or Enrique Mendoza, the unity candidates in my circuit.

Why is this so complicated?

Easy, if you want your political party to retain its formal identity with the Electoral Board, you need to obtain a certain percentage of votes or you have to start over and get a petition and file like a new party. It’s a pain to do that in twenty different states.

Who will I vote for? Clearly for the opposition, but likely for Causa R to help them retain their status as a party in my district. They work hard, they may not get the votes to bypass a new registration. Thus my, yes, quirky vote, I like their leaders and style.

So, all systems set to go. We are all ready. I will try to post tomorrow using my phone, hope it does not rain much, it has been raining cats and dogs all day, it would be a pity of results were to be affected by such an external and non-democratic factor.

Posting is quite easy with my cell phone, the problem is that if lines are long and there is crowding I will have no time for it. My voting table has 546 people, if it takes one minute for each voter, assuming everyone goes and vote, it would take close to ten hours for the process to be completed. Except that people tend to go and vote in the morning so it is inevitable that lines will form. Assume 30% abstention, that’s 327 voters, if half decide to go before noon, then that would require more than one voter a minute, with the current system and the number of older people voting, that’s simply impossible at my center, particularly as older people show up very early, clogging the lines.

So, looking forward to the opposition getting 65 Deputies or more. It all depends on abstention, which is the toughest factor to predict in Venezuela. Very low abstention (~15%) favor Chavez, higher level abstention (~30-40%) favors the opposition, even higher levels favor Chavismo again.

For the opposition, blocking Chavez from obtaining a super majority (2/3) is the first task at hand. Not achieving this would be a serious defeat for the opposition. The second task, which would be a very strong victory for the opposition, would be if it obtained 50% of the popular vote, even it that meant only 40% of the Deputies in the Assembly. Beyond that, it would be sweet, but it looks hard to have more Deputies than Chavismo in the Assembly.

Results are very sensitive to the levels of popular vote. If the opposition gets around 47% of the popular vote, it would not reach 33% of the Deputies, if it got near 54% of the vote, it would have a majority of the Deputies in the Assembly. That shows how rigged the system is, a 6% to 7% difference in popular vote, gives a 21% increase in the number of Deputies.

So, good luck tomorrow, hope your lines and the waiting are short and I better go to sleep, it will be a very long day, even if you don’t have to get up before 5AM.