Archive for August 22nd, 2012

Protecting The Votes in Venezuela Part III: The Opposition Has To Defend The Votes Everywhere

August 22, 2012

The picture above shows why the opposition needs to have witnesses in more electoral centers that it has done in the past. In the plot, voters are divided in seven groups of equal size, roughly 2.5 million voters per group, going from polling places where the opposition wins 80% to 20% on the left, to where Chavismo wins 76%-24% on the right. The vertical bars show the vote difference between the two sides in each of these seven blocks.

Note that as we go from left to right, abstention increases, going from 27% where the opposition is strong and increasing steadily to 39% in block six, but then surprisingly going down in block seven. Curiously (not shown), the number of null votes, also increases from left to right, but magically also decreases in the last block, which comprises some of the poorer areas of Venezuela. We also note that the poll stations on the right block on the extreme right, tend to be small, one or two mesas at most and in isolated locations. The opposition had almost no witnesses in these polling stations in the Parliamentary elections.

The conclusion that the Comando Venezuela has reached, is that the trend of higher abstention and lower null votes in block seven on the right, simply reflects the fact that we had no presence. If you extrapolate the trend of higher abstention the more pro-Chavista the area is, you would have expected abstention to come in at 42%, a full 6% points above what was obtained. We are talking about 150,000 votes that should not have been there.

The hypothesis is that these votes were not cast by voters, but by members of the polling stations, once no more voters were in line to vote and in the absence of opposition witnesses.

In fact, the same trends seen in the graph above have been used to identify ¨critical¨voting centers in blocks five and six on the right, where there exist anomalies in either abstention or a low number of null votes. These critical centers are the subject of special attention in the upcoming Presidential election and could make the difference in the outcome.

Now, I definitely don’t want to go into the details of what is being planned, but essentially, the objective is to have witnesses everywhere uniformly. In the past, political parties were assigned this task and typically they would fill the “easy” centers first. This time, all centers are considered alike, regardless of location and size and witnesses have to be found uniformly for them. However, “critical” centers have been identified as a way of checking that the plan is working. That is, a number of checks are defined for these witnesses. Things as simple as, do they answer the phone? Have they been trained? and the like. Then, every week, random auditing is made of the witnesses and these parameters are quantified and compared between centers using not only the “critical” versus non-critical parameter, but also geography, socio-economic background and the like.

What I was shown, is that these audit numbers, seven weeks before the elections, differ little for each of the blocks shown in the chart above or even if you look at it differently, using geography or other parameters. This implies, that the witness coverage will be the same or equivalent whether a center has on mesa, is located in a city or in an isolated region. This should be key in the upcoming election, as it would wipe out or significantly reduce the possibility of fake votes, as it is suspected there were in the past.

In the opinion of the people in Comando Venezuela, this issue is more important than any of the others. If the opposition can have witnesses present in all these polling stations, we can prevent thousands of non-existing votes from being cast, far more than errors or fake ID’s in the Electoral Registry could ever generate.

Could there be problems? Of course, no plan is infallible. The military via the Plan Republica could interfere. Some witnesses may be threatened or scared away. But vote protection should be orders of magnitude better than it was in 2010. And as I always tell people who are worried: We did win that election in terms of the number of votes, even if gerrymandering gave the victory to Chavez.