August 18, 2004

No on-the-spot audit, no closure

From the comments...

I only have time for one post tonight. So I have this to say.

If the second audit reveals that the vote tally was fraudelent the CNE, Chavez, JVR and a whole host of others should be in jail and a new RR held right away.

But I would like to hear from folks on this. If the audit matches the announced results is this the end? Will people accept the results? What I am hearing here makes me think that no matter what happens many here are going to allege fraud. So I think that people here should put their cards on the table and say where this ends for them and what results they will accept.

The CNE didn't have to agree to this audit but they did. I'm glad. Someone here is lying big time and will have zero credibility after this is over. We'll know who that someone is shortly. So please, lets all say where we stand on this.
Dan Burnett | 08.17.04 - 10:56 pm | #



You raise the key question, and I'm afraid you are right: even if the auditoria en frio (after-the-fact audit) says CNE had it right, many in the opposition will not accept it. Why? Because the "cuerpo del delito" - the ballot papers - have been in the hands of stooges of the main suspect - the Chavez-controlled military - since Sunday night.

The fact is that the *only* procedure that could've settled this question definitively and beyond any shadow of a doubt was an on-the-spot audit - the so-called auditoria en caliente. If CNE had agreed to open the ballot boxes on Sunday night, five minutes after the last vote was cast, publicly, in a statistically valid random sample of voting centers, in front of poll workers, witnesses from both sides and international observers, counted the physicial ballots and matched them to the electronic tally, then, then - there would be no room for doubt at all. This, after all, is what the Smartmatic machines were designed for, the whole reason they produce a paper vote.

Think how different Venezuela would be right now if we'd had an on-the spot audit. The country would be moving on by now...the winners would be celebrating, the losers soul-searching, the country entering into a new phase. The country would've found a peaceful, democratic, electoral and constitutional solution to the crisis - which was the whole point of the exercise in the first place.

Now, why was there no on-the-spot audit? The history here is very clear, very straightforward, amply documented. Felipe Mujica and Alberto Quiros Corradi, the opposition's negotiators at CNE, pushed hard for this kind of check in pre-vote negotiations with CNE. Jorge Rodriguez, acting as CNE's main negotiator, simply refused, categorically, to even consider any variation on this kind of check.

To my mind, it was JR's refusal to allow an auditoria en caliente that robbed the country of the possibility of a definitive, authoritative solution to the crisis. Even if there was no fraud, JR killed the only check that could've convinced both sides of our terribly polarized, low-trust country that this was so.

In other words, no on-the-spot audit, no closure.

I've spent the last two days obsessively considering this question, and I just cannot think of any plausible explanation for JR's refusal to allow on-the-spot audits that doesn't involve some kind of hanky panky. I wish I could, but I can't. Maybe you can help me here.

On-the-spot auditing, according to the burned-by-Diebold US left, is the key requirement to make eVoting trustworthy. On-the-spot auditing is what the Smartmatic machines were built to allow. Why the hell did they buy the machines and then refuse to perform the key checks the machines were designed to allow? It doesn't add up.
Quico | 08.18.04 - 7:03 am | #

Addendum: I am not a Johnny-come-lately on the on-the-spot audit front. I wrote about it three times in June, just before and just after the CD/CNE negotiations were concluded:

On June 7, 2004 I wrote: "Thre must be a paper trail, and on the spot verification of the automated totals. The experience with Diebold in the US makes this painfully clear."

On June 9th, right after CNE finally set a referendum date and ruled out an on the spot audit, I evaluated the announcement: "The bad: The date is August 15th, not August 8th. There will be no on-the-spot verification of automated results."

On June 11th, in the comments section: "The auditoria en caliente is the key to everything. The system was *designed* with on-the-spot auditing in mind. There is no possible justification for not having it..."

The importance of on-the-spot auditing was clear all the way back then - but I thought, like Quiros and Mujica, that getting to a vote before Aug. 19th was so much more important than any other consideration, that even a key check like this one could be tossed into the pyre for the sake of expediency.