The Comando Venezuela will have to work with the same voting system used in the previous four elections. This system has been audited extensively and there is no proof that via this system any votes have been modified since the 2005 election. The only part that is different in this election, is that a new fingerprint software has been introduced, which implies that there will be extensive checks in this new part of the system.
The voting system process is like this:
The voter shows his or her ID card and register the fingerprint. If it is that in the database (which is local) the President of the “Mesa” unblocks the voting machine and the voter can cast the vote. Should this fail, the voter fills out a form and registers a new fingerprint. Thus, one of the audits that will be performed is that of the quality of the fingerprint database to insure that it is uniform across the country in both geographic and socio-economic terms. This are checks on the fingerprints which have international standards of quality.
The Comando Venezuela knows that the only purpose of the fingerprint system is to intimidate, it will thus audit and check the system to insure that voters can cast their vote with confidence that it will be secret.
The vote itself only contains information about the vote, it has no information about the voter and it is all encrypted. When the vote is stored in the machine, it goes into a temporary memory:
Each time a new vote comes into this temporary memory, another is moved at random to the permanent file with the record of the votes. Thus, theer is no sequencing in the memory. The national ID number (cedula) also goes into the machine, also into five memories and one is moved at random, to record that this voter already cast the vote and can not do it again. The two registers and files are separate and they are both encrypted. Recall that the opposition did not participate in the Parliamentary elections in 2005, precisely because the tests showed that there was some sequencing which was later corrected.
Once all of the votes are cast, the machine prints the total tally, with enough copies for all of the witnesses at each “Mesa”. After this printing has taken place and only after, the machine is connected to the telephone line and the results transmitted to the CNE. At the CNE, all political parties have representation in the totaling room. This has been the case since 2005. (Note that 2004 is not included)
After all of the mesas in one center close, 54% will be audited at random. That is, 54% will be counted by hand and insure that the manual count agrees with the machine count.
Thus, if we have witnesses at all Centers and Tables, it is very unlikely that the vote is not secret and/or that the vote can be changed. In fact, there is no evidence that any vote cast by a voter has been changed since 2005 or that the machine count has been altered after the vote was completed.
However, we need witnesses everywhere, as we need to insure that the votes are truly cast in each mesa and center by real people. In part 3, I will describe what the problem is and why the Comando Venezuela has made of this the centerpiece of its strategy to protect our votes.