10 keys to the CNE’s Chucuta performance in the Essequibo referendum

The CNE led by Elvis Amoroso showed how it acts during an electoral process for the first time. A sea of ​​irregularities and confusing and opaque data have marked its action

The consultative referendum on Essequibo was the first electoral event organized by the National Electoral Council headed by Elvis Amoroso, installed last August. The day of December 3 was therefore the first test of how the new rectors organize and lead national votes, as a prelude to the presidential elections that must be held in the second half of 2024.

The day passed with empty polling stations or with little attendance and problems in compliance with electoral regulations. At night, when presenting results, the greatest number of problems were noted when giving incomplete and confusing data in a “chucuto” report.

But the problems in the electoral management of this popular consultation did not stop there. Here we leave 10 keys in this regard:

The campaign that never ended

On October 21, the CNE published the schedule that would govern the referendum for Essequibo. There it was established that the electoral campaign would last 26 days from November 6 to end on December 1. The consultation was assumed by State institutions as a patriotic commitment, but even so it was not exempt from being governed by current electoral regulations.

However, on voting day itself, Sunday, December 3, senior state officials and media outlets were openly campaigning. Minister Remigio Ceballos voted and then in televised statements called to vote “five times yes.” He said it several times.

He wasn’t the only one. Other interviewees, such as the governor of Portuguesa, Primitivo Cedeño, spoke in Radio Union at night ensuring not only that participation in that entity would exceed 55% but that there were still people voting “five times yes.”

Article 75 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes prohibits electoral propaganda “that occurs outside the period of the electoral campaign established by the National Electoral Council,” and that contains the colors of the national flag. In this case, both provisions were violated.

The monitored vote

For several years now, the presence of “red dots” near electoral centers by the PSUV has been questioned and denounced. There have been political agreements for the CNE to prohibit parties from installing this type of places near the polls. During the Essequibo referendum there were no limitations.

Not only were they installed near the electoral centers but they were shamelessly used to arrange for voters to come to “check themselves” when voting. Since on this occasion, no one campaigned for No for any of the questions, there was no one to denounce such an irregularity.

Throughout the day, complaints continued from officials demanding explanations as to why public administration workers had not gone to vote, taking information from those who appeared on those lists or were absent from them. Audios were heard from the mayor of Cárdenas del Táchira municipality, Martha Gallo; and of Mayor Flor Martínez, of the Córdoba municipality of the same entity. In both cases they demanded the presence of voters under penalty of losing social benefits.

As if that were not enough, the next day it began to be reported on social networks the alleged payment of bonuses to those who appeared as voters who had participated in the referendum. If this is the case, it would be a “reward” that could be read as a purchase of votes.

The malleable schedule

Once in Venezuela voting hours ended at 4:00 in the afternoon. In times of Chavismo it was already extended until 6:00 pm, to complete 12 continuous hours of the electoral process. But it has become customary that the closing of tables occurs when the power wants it to happen, beyond the norm.

The regulations establish that once the polling station closing hours are met, only those where there are voters waiting to vote remain open. But Elvis Amoroso’s National Electoral Council decided to continue an irregular practice assumed by his predecessors and “normalized” by different political actors: extend voting hours.

Amoroso then announced that the tables would remain open until 8:00 p.m. SuchWhich He was able to confirm that there were places where the doors were left open and still no one entered to participate.

After the announced closing time, no one from the electoral authority formally announced the closure of tables. There were centers that chose, therefore, to remain open until the coordinator decided to lock it. This led to a next irregularity.

*Read also: CNE publishes second bulletin with fewer voters than the first

First newsletter with open tables

When at 10:00 pm Elvis Amoroso appeared before the cameras to announce the first bulletin of results, he said that 10,554,320 votes had been registered, an “extraordinary, unprecedented participation.” But, perhaps for the first time in recent history, the CNE gave results admitting that there were still open polling stations.

Amoroso did not say how many tables had been scrutinized to find the data that he announced as the first result, while indicating that the electoral centers would remain open “because they still register people in line.” What’s more, he stated that “the figure will increase with the extension that was granted.”

Any percentage of scrutiny that Amoroso gave would have been false, because with open tables and supposedly receiving voters, the total universe of votes would not stop increasing.

chucuto announcement of results

Article 371 of the Regulation of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes establishes that the partial totalization bulletin “will reflect a partial report of the electoral results, as well as the list of Minutes scrutinized and Minutes missing from the total number of Minutes expected.”

That is, it would show how many people participated and how much abstention there was. This did not happen with the first bulletin given by Elvis Amoroso on the night of December 3rd.

What Amoroso announced was a number of registered votes – more than 10.5 million – and the percentage of approval for each of the five questions. The president of the CNE refrained from mentioning the other aspects that the legal regulation mandates: percentage of scrutiny, participation and abstention.

Second bulletin with fewer votes

Elvis Amoroso’s words on Sunday night raised many doubts. Was it 10 million total votes or 10 million votes for each question? Were they 10 million votes but not 10 million voters?

The clarification came the next day, when the president of the CNE accompanied by Nicolás Maduro announced, now, that there were 10,431,907 voters with 98.16% of the scrutiny already carried out. The data, however, showed an inconsistency with respect to the first bulletin: 122,413 fewer voters.

How does the second bulletin have fewer voters than the first, when the first one was also announced with the tagline that “the number will increase with the extension that was granted,” in the words of Amoroso. Nobody knows.

What is clear is that the second bulletin also did not fully comply with the requirements of article 371 of the Regulations of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes.

The mystery of null votes

The data announced by Amoroso in his first and second newsletter showed the dichotomy of the consultation. Closed questions to be answered Yes or No, where the affirmative option ended up obtaining percentages above 96% in all cases.

The design of the system did not allow one to fail to answer any of the questions: one could only move on to the next question once the Yes option or the No option already presented had been selected. That is, no one could choose not to answer any of the questions, to show disagreement with the formulation or simply to prefer a discreet Don’t know/No answer.

This is how he could verify it SuchWhich during the day on Sunday. It is not clear, therefore, how it was possible that thousands of null votes were produced for each question. The CNE never explained what had to happen for a vote to be invalid on the ballot.

The data reported by Amoroso in the second bulletin specified that the first question had 29,165 null votes, the second 50,416; the third 38,542; the fourth 38,963 and the fifth 104,928.

*Read also: Maduro says that “the referendum is binding”

The CNE website has not even found out

Almost 24 hours after the closing of the referendum tables for Essequibo, the official website of the National Electoral Council still did not show any results to the public. The electoral results module did not show any link leading to that data either, despite the fact that Elvis Amoroso had already given not one but two partial results bulletins.

In SuchWhich We had access to the URL that leads to the results module of the December 3rd query, but until 7:00 pm on Monday, December 4th it also did not show any data loaded. Of course, there was still no data disaggregated by regions, municipalities or electoral centers.

It is not the first time it happens. The CNE never published the electoral results of the referendum for the 2017 constituent assembly… those of the supposed 8 million voters that Smartmatic itself denounced were data that had been manipulated and did not correspond to what they had registered in the voting machines.

CNE results module referendum essequibo

In 2023, the CNE website also has another important update: it does not even show any press publications since November 27. In the virtual press room of the electoral body there is no record that the consultation or the first two results bulletins have occurred.


The unanimity of the rectors

On the board of the National Electoral Council sworn in in August 2023 there are several rectors who are not supposed to be militants of the revolutionary process, such as Elvis Amoroso, Carlos Quintero and Rosalba Gil.

The rectors Aimé Nogal and Juan Carlos Delpino – from UNT and close to AD, respectively –, however, have not shown any reaction or disagreement regarding these and other irregularities registered around the Essequibo referendum.

Even when Amoroso announced the extension of voting hours until 8:00 pm on Sunday, he stated that the decision had been made “unanimously” by the board.

*Read also: Guyana asks Cuba for mediation in the Essequibo dispute

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