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The Big Winner in Venezuela: Confidence in Electronic Voting

Submitted by on 09 Mar 2012 – 12:50

ElectionBy Samira Saba, Marketing Communications Director, Smartmatic

On February 12, 2012, independent leaders and opposition parties in Venezuela, grouped in the Democratic Unity coalition (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), held open primary elections aimed at defining who will be the single candidate to stand against incumbent president Hugo Chavez in the presidential elections scheduled for October 7, 2012. The Primaries also determined the opposition’s representatives to challenge president Chavez’s candidates for various positions at state and municipal levels in another round of elections to take place in December, 2012.

This remarkable event has set the stage, once again, for Venezuelan opposition to test the robust automated platform that has deserved numerous positive reviews from voters and voting authorities alike around the world, after providing accurate and transparent results —election after election.

February’s elections marked the second occasion that opposition candidates  have entrusted the National Electoral Council (CNE) to carry out their Primaries using Venezuela’s state-of-the-art voting system. This recurrence denotes an important change in how some opposition leaders perceive the advanced voting system provided by Smartmatic, as even the once most vociferous opponents of electronic voting now endorse the system and have participated as candidates in these elections at various levels in these Primaries.

As time has passed, and as multiple elections have been won and lost by the diverse actors of the Venezuelan political spectrum, lingering doubts about the transparency and efficiency of the system have dissipated. Actually, the winner of this primary election has won twice in elections carried out with the same technology.

Venezuela is nowadays a world reference of manifest success in the adoption of fully automated electoral processes. In 2004 the country made a giant leap forward by automating all stages of the process using Smartmatic’s technology. From the 2004 Recall Referendum, the company has grown to become the world leader in electronic voting with more than 1.5 Billion audited votes and dozens of elections held throughout the world.

Definitely we celebrate that in Venezuela, initial misinformation, misgivings and doubts have now dissipated, clearing the way for transparency and trust.

7 out of 10 Venezuelans prefer electronic voting

Venezuela is a country with a 14 year experience in electronic voting, moving from the deficiencies and limitations of manual voting to optical scanner technology (1998), and later to the latest generation of voting machines (DRE) with a printed voting voucher (2004 onwards). The country will even employ biometric identification devices for the next presidential elections (October 2012), which will be used to activate the process for each voter (the latest development stage of the automated voting system).

The advantages of automation have taken hold in the mindset of the population, to the point that ¾ of the electorate that was surveyed by Datanálisis (one of the most important pollster companies in Venezuela) affirmed that the public decidedly “prefers an automated voting system” to a manual one. This proves Venezuela’s leading position in the continent, together with Brazil, when it comes to electoral technology.

This same research carried out by Datanalisis showed that for 9 out of 10 Venezuelan voters, exercising their democratic right to vote is “easy” or “very easy” with Smarmatic’s voting machines (which feature touch screens, attached voting pads, and produce a printed voting voucher).

It is worth noting that among 88% of the people surveyed, there are no significant differences between socio-economical strata (A, B, C, D and E) or age groups (both young people over 18 and citizens over 60). All segments agree in their positive evaluation (4 out of 5) of the degree of ease of Smartmatic’s electoral solution, considered by the majority of the surveyed (70%) as a “cutting-edge” voting system.

Further, these results prove that Venezuelan voters think that interacting with a voting machine is easier than with an ATM (40% ease of use): both situations (no matter how common they may be) make similar demands on the user, who must proceed meticulously, carefully, and must also have trust in the security and privacy of the information entered, shown, and transmitted.