Carter Center Issues Final Report on 2013 Presidential Election

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

The Carter Center released its final report on the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election. The report describes the conditions surrounding the election and provides several recommendations for improvement.

The report states that Venezuelans have a high degree of trust in the integrity of results generated by the automated voting machines. It also shows that the full audit of the paper receipts vs. machine tallies demonstrates that the automated electoral system worked according to expectations.

The Carter Center states that there is no consensus on the “quality of the conditions” under which actual voting took place and devotes attention to incumbent advantage (ventajismo), as previously described in its preliminary July 2013 report.

The report includes a narration of events beginning with the October 2012 presidential elections that included former President Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles. The report also details the controversy surrounding the petitions made by Capriles to the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) that challenged the April 2013 results. According to the Carter Center, Capriles initially asked for a full “recount” of the votes, but later seemed to refer to an “audit.”

Semantic and procedural confusion also surrounded Capriles’ request that the CNE compare voter signature handbooks with fingerprints in order to uncover any instances of voter identity theft.

On April 18, the CNE accepted the request to expand its audit to include all voting boxes instead of the 53% audit of the boxes established by electoral law. However, Tibisay Lucena insisted this would be a “technical audit” and not a vote-by-vote recount. Capriles initially welcomed the CNE’s proposal for a full audit, but eventually rejected it due to differences with the CNE on what should count as the actual reach of a “full audit.”

The CNE announced on June 11 that it would still proceed with a full audit. The full audit showed 99.98% consistency between the electronic results produced by the voting machines and the paper receipts produced by the same machines. The opposition refused to participate in the process.

The CNE implemented a final audit during August and September 2013. This audit confirmed that multiple voting incidences could not have affected the electoral outcome. This was particularly important because the opposition had presented a list of “incidences” of multiple voting.  

The fingerprints audit identified 10,726 votes that were potentially duplicitous. This fraction of the total was far from capable of swaying the election results. The Carter Center, however, argues that this audit did not have the calming effect it should have had on the opposition’s concerns, mainly because the opposition was absent from the audit due to what the report calls a “rupture between the CNE and the MUD.”

The report also states that the CNE failed to publish the results of this last audit. In fact, the local newspaper El Universal claims that Venezuelans finally gained access to the numbers of this audit through the Carter Center report.

The final recommendations by the Carter Center repeat those made in its July report. They include curbing incumbent’s advantage, ensuring greater campaign equity, clarifying the role of the paper receipts, providing more information on the voter identification system, improving the quality of voting on election day, auditing and updating the electoral registry, examining the legal framework to avoid disputed interpretations of electoral law, and appointing new electoral authorities.