The election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela on July 30th drastically broke the electoral dynamic that had been building in the country since 2004, when the nation automated their voting.
From the way the election of a second ANC (the first one took place in 1999), to the moment in which results were presented, the election was questioned by experts and politicians both inside the country and abroad.
For some, the convocation to vote itself was illegal, since it was done directly by President Nicolás Maduro, without a referendum to consult the nation on whether they wanted a new constitution.
Furthermore, the National Electoral Council approved an electoral schedule that prevented many of the audits that had taken place in every election since 2004. By skipping two thirds of the battery of 21 audits that are usually conducted, the credibility of the vote was seriously affected. The Venezuelan National Observatory (OEV) kept a record of these shortcomings in a report, which states 14 audits were skipped, and 70 to a 100 actions that usually precede any election were omitted as well.
Adding to this, the problems were made worse by the decision of the Venezuelan opposition to abstain from participating, since this took away one of the vital aspects needed to guarantee the transparency of the process: having witnesses from the opposing side making sure rules and procedures are respected.
The grave concerns over the way the CNE decided to carry out the voting reached a boiling point 72 hours after the event, when Smartmatic, the company that had supplied Venezuela with voting technology for the past 14 years, denounced that according to their estimates, “the difference between the numbers announced and those in the system [was] of at least a million voters”.
According to the multinational, while CNE President Tibisay Lucena stated 8,08 million people had voted the company data projected a different number, and they suggested audits to validate the information.
To date, the CNE has not responded to this accusation effectively, and chose to hide behind political rhetoric when the situation called for technical arguments. Mistrust gained ground: it has been several weeks after the vote and the organism has not yet published electoral results by polling station, as it had done traditionally since 2004, thus withholding the knowledge of how all the voting circuits polled, and preventing confirmation of the results.
The CNE’s decision to hide the electoral data denies any audit of the vote; the tally cannot be corroborated by matching printed election returns with the polling station results.
So not only are there accusations of an alleged tampering of the final results offered by the National Electoral Council (CNE), but we can add that more than 30 days the vote, no official detailed results have been made public.
The delicate nature of the situation has been discussed by national and international specialists. Former Carter Center representative, Jennifer McCoy, anticipates that what happened will “strongly influence the trust of Venezuelans when it comes to participating in future elections”.
It is in the hands of the authorities to restore proper lawful procedures, and in the hands of political actors to press so that Venezuelans can recover their voting system, which took years of work and investments.