Venezuela: Gold medal in electoral automation

In Venezuela, voting machines print a vote receipt on paper, which is placed inside a ballot. This receipt allows for the audit of the suffrage and automated tallying.

This Sunday, Venezuela held elections to choose the President that will guide its fate for the 2013-2019 term. The South American nation has 14 years of experience in automated voting, and these presidential elections mark a turning point in electoral matters, as a completely automated national election was held for the first time in the world. If the elections were the Olympic Games, Venezuela would win a gold medal, for the technological platform covers all of the instances of the electoral cycle, from the candidate registration to the announcement and publication of results.

It’s important to point out that for the Sunday elections; a biometric authentication system was used for the first time in order to activate the voting machine. A new design for the electronic ballot was employed as well.

The winner was the incumbent President, Hugo Chávez Frías, who was reelected with a total 7,860,982 votes (54.84%). 14,610,768 citizens attended the polling stations, an 80.85% of the total registered voters. This marks one of the highest participation rates in Venezuela’s electoral history. Chavez’s contender, Henrique Capriles Radonski, obtained 6,386,155 votes (44.55%).

During the months prior to the election, the electoral platform offered the advantages of a highly auditable automated system. The electoral body organized about 17 audits, in which technicians from the different political parties participated. Through these audits, it was possible to certify the correct performance of the system: from the voting machines, electronic ballots, and the biometric voter authentication system, to the transmission and totalization of the results. Moreover, at the end of the Election Day, 52.98% of the voting machines were audited once again with a comparison of the physical vote receipts against the machine’s scrutiny report.

Thanks to this, and to the high level of auditability that e-voting provides, the official results were obtained only three hours after the first polling places were closed, and the candidate from the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Henrique Capriles Radonski, acknowledged the victory of Hugo Chavez Frias. It’s important to highlight that the Venezuelan campaign was carried out under the intense polarization that has taken over the country during the last decade. The candidates offered opposing models, and the tone of the campaign turned violent on occasion. Traditional pollsters, who generally offer comparable predictions, gave wildly dissimilar results. For this reason, both candidates were very confident of their victory even just weeks away from the race. However, what looked like a probable train wreck gave way to a cutting-edge electoral system that offered accurate and reliable results.


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