April 28, 2004

Cristina's predicament


La arrechera de Cristina

No one who's ever met my sister Cristina could even imagine her filling out her firmazo form wrong. Cristina's an elementary school teacher, and a rigorous one at that. My mental image of her is inseparable from the piles of notebooks she's permanently correcting with an attention to detail that keeps her students on the straight and narrow. Her handwriting has the exacting precision of a self-proclaimed neat freak. There is no question of her screwing up her data on something as important as the firmazo.

Yet, when Cristina checks her ID number with the CNE signature database, she's told "she did not sign, or her signature was not processed by CNE." As far as CNE is concerned, it's like she never signed at all!

Now, someone made a mistake here, that much is clear. A "material error", one might even say. Cristina meant to sign, and she did sign, but her signature just vanished. There ought to be some way for her to set the record straight, to make sure her will is reflected in the final tally, don't you think?

Well, that's what CNE thought 9 months ago, but it's now what they think anymore. What's ironic about Cristina's situation is that the rules CNE published way back in September did provide a remedy for people in her situation. In fact, protecting people in this situation is what the original reparo mechanism was all about.

To quote the original CNE regulations, article 31:

In the five following days after the publication (of the valid and invalid signatures), electors whose signatures are rejected may personally go in front of the National Electoral Council in order to correct any material error that the Electoral Administration may have committed in verifying his data. If he fails to do so, the rejection (of the signature) shall stand. Equally, electors who allege they did not sign the forms shall be able to go in front of CNE to ask to be excluded immediately from the signature tally.

(En el plazo de cinco días continuos siguientes a la publicación, el elector firmante que fuera rechazado podrá acudir personalmente ante el Consejo Nacional Electoral, a los fines de subsanar cualquier error material en que haya incurrido la Administración Electoral durante la verificación de sus datos. En caso contrario, quedará firme su rechazo. Asimismo, el elector que alegue que no firmó la planilla, podrá acudir al Consejo Nacional Electoral a los fines de solicitar su exclusión inmediata del cómputo de las firmas.)

Great, a rule that makes sense! If only. Under the rules CNE approved this week, Cristina's signature is simply not eligible to be repaired.

It's not just that the rules published this week are different from the ones approved all those months ago, it's that this week's rules do exactly the opposite of what the original rules were meant to do. Once all the bla, bla, bla dies down, Cristina's signature will be kept out of the total, whatever article 31 says. Y punto.

Sumate says there are 200,000 such Astonishing Vanishing Signatures. Lindo, ¿no?