Archive for August 27th, 2004

The Carter Center: With observers like these, who needs observers?

August 27, 2004

Reading the audit report by the Carter Center is painful. Painful because it is sloppy, painful because it leaves a lot of material out or says things without explaining that what was done went either against the rules of the audit, an audit or the agreements made. Finally the technical aspects described are so poor and unconvincing that it makes you wonder who wrote it and if anyone approved it before releasing it. It makes you wonder if the reason that it is only available in Spanish is so that many will have no critical access to it.


Let’s look at some details:


 


-The report does not say that the boxes with the ballots were not under the observation of the Carter Center for over 65 hours, but goes in painstaking detail about how there were two observers from the OAS and the Center per state after that “grace” period and the like.


 


-The report fails to mention that the opposition requested, but was denied the opportunity to choose 50 ballot boxes to audit. This is without doubt the biggest mystery in the whole process, why didn’t the CNE allow the opposition to pick some voting centers, forcing a random sample after denying any possibility of the random sample during the petition drive to have the recall? CNE Director said in that case, he did not trust a sample and the issue was too important. Talk about a double standard, or is it a single one?


 


-The report mentions that 50 extra boxes were picked in case there were problems, but fails to mention that indeed there were problems and some of the boxes were actually missing and were never found!


 


-Why did the Carter Center fail to follow the agreement with the opposition that the random number generator supplied would be that of the center and instead, the one from the CNE was used? Moreover, all sorts of technical detail is given, but no mention I made of how the seed was chosen. Indeed, it does mention it was the same generator used on Sunday, if it had the same seed; the sequence was exactly the same! Bruni in the comments section has been wondering about this point from day one and she was right to worry!


 


-The report says that ballot boxes were “in several garrisons” while the CNE assured everyone that they were in the Fuerte Tiuna military facility. The report also talks about two states where the material was still “disperse” three days after the vote!


 


-The other report by the Carter Center is the final report on the recall vote. It has similar problems as the audit report. It does note that on Aug. 15th, “hot audit” 192 ballot boxes were supposed to be audited, but only 82 were. Moreover, it fails to say that opposition representatives were only present in 27 of them and in those, the Si vote won 63% to 37%, despite the fact that these came from seven states in which the No had won in five. Moreover, these showed no discrepancies.


 


-The report fails to note that while abstention was 37% in the electronic vote, it was practically zero in the remote areas where the vote was manual, exactly the opposite of what has happened historically and what happened in this election in similar areas where machines were deployed! Any of my Chavista readers can give me a coherent and plausible explanation for this not so small anomaly?


 


-The report mentions in passing the problem with the total number of Si votes coinciding from center to center. However, the Carter Center continues to consider the coincidences at the level of the “mesas” (tables) and not at the center level. There is a factor of five increase in coincidences when the problem is considered at the center level. No detail was provided as to what exactly the two “foreign statisticians” looked at in their studies to say that it was a mathematical probability for this to happen.


 


-The report does not even get right the level of abstention, the number they give (73% of the people voting) has nothing to do with any of the numbers reported by the CNE in any of its reports.


 


Very sloppy reports on the part of an institution that should provide international and professional class work in a process in which attention to detail and critical analysis is crucial to the accomplishment of their goals. As the saying goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” or in its new version: “With observers like these, who needs observers?”

The Carter Center: With observers like these, who needs observers?

August 27, 2004

Reading the audit report by the Carter Center is painful. Painful because it is sloppy, painful because it leaves a lot of material out or says things without explaining that what was done went either against the rules of the audit, an audit or the agreements made. Finally the technical aspects described are so poor and unconvincing that it makes you wonder who wrote it and if anyone approved it before releasing it. It makes you wonder if the reason that it is only available in Spanish is so that many will have no critical access to it.


Let’s look at some details:


 


-The report does not say that the boxes with the ballots were not under the observation of the Carter Center for over 65 hours, but goes in painstaking detail about how there were two observers from the OAS and the Center per state after that “grace” period and the like.


 


-The report fails to mention that the opposition requested, but was denied the opportunity to choose 50 ballot boxes to audit. This is without doubt the biggest mystery in the whole process, why didn’t the CNE allow the opposition to pick some voting centers, forcing a random sample after denying any possibility of the random sample during the petition drive to have the recall? CNE Director said in that case, he did not trust a sample and the issue was too important. Talk about a double standard, or is it a single one?


 


-The report mentions that 50 extra boxes were picked in case there were problems, but fails to mention that indeed there were problems and some of the boxes were actually missing and were never found!


 


-Why did the Carter Center fail to follow the agreement with the opposition that the random number generator supplied would be that of the center and instead, the one from the CNE was used? Moreover, all sorts of technical detail is given, but no mention I made of how the seed was chosen. Indeed, it does mention it was the same generator used on Sunday, if it had the same seed; the sequence was exactly the same! Bruni in the comments section has been wondering about this point from day one and she was right to worry!


 


-The report says that ballot boxes were “in several garrisons” while the CNE assured everyone that they were in the Fuerte Tiuna military facility. The report also talks about two states where the material was still “disperse” three days after the vote!


 


-The other report by the Carter Center is the final report on the recall vote. It has similar problems as the audit report. It does note that on Aug. 15th, “hot audit” 192 ballot boxes were supposed to be audited, but only 82 were. Moreover, it fails to say that opposition representatives were only present in 27 of them and in those, the Si vote won 63% to 37%, despite the fact that these came from seven states in which the No had won in five. Moreover, these showed no discrepancies.


 


-The report fails to note that while abstention was 37% in the electronic vote, it was practically zero in the remote areas where the vote was manual, exactly the opposite of what has happened historically and what happened in this election in similar areas where machines were deployed! Any of my Chavista readers can give me a coherent and plausible explanation for this not so small anomaly?


 


-The report mentions in passing the problem with the total number of Si votes coinciding from center to center. However, the Carter Center continues to consider the coincidences at the level of the “mesas” (tables) and not at the center level. There is a factor of five increase in coincidences when the problem is considered at the center level. No detail was provided as to what exactly the two “foreign statisticians” looked at in their studies to say that it was a mathematical probability for this to happen.


 


-The report does not even get right the level of abstention, the number they give (73% of the people voting) has nothing to do with any of the numbers reported by the CNE in any of its reports.


 


Very sloppy reports on the part of an institution that should provide international and professional class work in a process in which attention to detail and critical analysis is crucial to the accomplishment of their goals. As the saying goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” or in its new version: “With observers like these, who needs observers?”

The Carter Center: With observers like these, who needs observers?

August 27, 2004

Reading the audit report by the Carter Center is painful. Painful because it is sloppy, painful because it leaves a lot of material out or says things without explaining that what was done went either against the rules of the audit, an audit or the agreements made. Finally the technical aspects described are so poor and unconvincing that it makes you wonder who wrote it and if anyone approved it before releasing it. It makes you wonder if the reason that it is only available in Spanish is so that many will have no critical access to it.


Let’s look at some details:


 


-The report does not say that the boxes with the ballots were not under the observation of the Carter Center for over 65 hours, but goes in painstaking detail about how there were two observers from the OAS and the Center per state after that “grace” period and the like.


 


-The report fails to mention that the opposition requested, but was denied the opportunity to choose 50 ballot boxes to audit. This is without doubt the biggest mystery in the whole process, why didn’t the CNE allow the opposition to pick some voting centers, forcing a random sample after denying any possibility of the random sample during the petition drive to have the recall? CNE Director said in that case, he did not trust a sample and the issue was too important. Talk about a double standard, or is it a single one?


 


-The report mentions that 50 extra boxes were picked in case there were problems, but fails to mention that indeed there were problems and some of the boxes were actually missing and were never found!


 


-Why did the Carter Center fail to follow the agreement with the opposition that the random number generator supplied would be that of the center and instead, the one from the CNE was used? Moreover, all sorts of technical detail is given, but no mention I made of how the seed was chosen. Indeed, it does mention it was the same generator used on Sunday, if it had the same seed; the sequence was exactly the same! Bruni in the comments section has been wondering about this point from day one and she was right to worry!


 


-The report says that ballot boxes were “in several garrisons” while the CNE assured everyone that they were in the Fuerte Tiuna military facility. The report also talks about two states where the material was still “disperse” three days after the vote!


 


-The other report by the Carter Center is the final report on the recall vote. It has similar problems as the audit report. It does note that on Aug. 15th, “hot audit” 192 ballot boxes were supposed to be audited, but only 82 were. Moreover, it fails to say that opposition representatives were only present in 27 of them and in those, the Si vote won 63% to 37%, despite the fact that these came from seven states in which the No had won in five. Moreover, these showed no discrepancies.


 


-The report fails to note that while abstention was 37% in the electronic vote, it was practically zero in the remote areas where the vote was manual, exactly the opposite of what has happened historically and what happened in this election in similar areas where machines were deployed! Any of my Chavista readers can give me a coherent and plausible explanation for this not so small anomaly?


 


-The report mentions in passing the problem with the total number of Si votes coinciding from center to center. However, the Carter Center continues to consider the coincidences at the level of the “mesas” (tables) and not at the center level. There is a factor of five increase in coincidences when the problem is considered at the center level. No detail was provided as to what exactly the two “foreign statisticians” looked at in their studies to say that it was a mathematical probability for this to happen.


 


-The report does not even get right the level of abstention, the number they give (73% of the people voting) has nothing to do with any of the numbers reported by the CNE in any of its reports.


 


Very sloppy reports on the part of an institution that should provide international and professional class work in a process in which attention to detail and critical analysis is crucial to the accomplishment of their goals. As the saying goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” or in its new version: “With observers like these, who needs observers?”

Hugo, Jimmy and Colin, WSJ Editorial

August 27, 2004

The Wall Street Journal asks some good questions using the same Enron analogy I used to describe the CNE audit:


Hugo, Jimmy and Colin, WSJ Editorial


 



August 26, 2004; Page A12


 


Last week’s recall victory by Venezuelan strongman President Hugo Chavez is likely to create long-term trouble for American interests in the Western Hemisphere. So it’s all the more disconcerting to hear the U.S. State Department anoint what was anything but a fair and transparent election.


 


On Monday, a Foggy Bottom spokesman declared that, “In order to address those charges of election fraud, an audit was conducted. The audit found that — did not find any basis to call into doubt the results of the elections.”


 


As “audits” go, however, this was akin to Arthur Andersen scrubbing Enron. The sample for the audit was selected by the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is controlled by Mr. Chavez, and was too small to be considered statistically reliable.


 


On referendum day, there was no open audit at the polling stations to reconcile the paper ballots to the electronic voting machines, as the opposition requested, because Mr. Chavez would not allow it. There was also no closed-door audit with all of the National Electoral


 


Council members present because the Chavez-controlled Council did not allow it. There was no inspection of the electronic voting machines immediately after the vote because Mr. Chavez would not allow it. And there was no impartial impounding of the election data — paper or digital — because … you get the idea.


 


We also know that Mr. Chavez sharply limited the number of international observers allowed into the country, something that hasn’t been done (outside of Cuba) in Latin America since Manual Noriega used it as a way to steal elections in Panama in 1989. The European Union refused to send observers because Mr. Chavez so severely limited the size of the team and its ability to move about.


 


That didn’t stop Jimmy Carter from bringing an inspection team — sharply reduced in size per Mr. Chavez’s demands — and the former U.S. President has played a crucial role in blessing the results, as he wrote in a letter to us on Tuesday. So it’s worth noting the reasons that Mr. Carter cites for his conclusions, as he recorded in his trip report on his Web site.


 


“We heard a litany of catastrophic predictions about cheating, intimidation, and actual violence planned by the government for election day,” Mr. Carter writes. Yet he saw no cause for concern because “We reported on the assurances we had received from CNE and the military, which answered most of their concerns.” He finally signed off on the outcome after he said he was invited “to witness the disclosure of the first electronic tabulation.” Mr. Carter’s logic seems to be that he could judge the election to be fair more or less because Mr. Chavez’s military and election council told him it was fair.


 


Mr. Carter never did a full audit of the vote, which differed dramatically from exit polling and featured hundreds of polling places with voting machines tallying the same number of yes votes — a phenomenon that independent statisticians find highly improbable. Nevertheless, after he “confirm[ed] the legitimacy of the CNE returns,” Mr. Carter also discloses on his Web site, he “called Secretary of State Colin Powell to report our authentication of results, and he promised to issue a statement from Washington endorsing our findings.” Which the State Department proceeded to do.


 


Our liberal friends keep lecturing us to accept the Chavez result, since anti-American politicians do sometimes win free elections. But this recall was hardly as transparent as, say, Germany‘s election of Gerhard Schroder in 2002. Mr. Chavez has a record of abusing the rule of law to gather ever-greater political control. He has allied himself with Mr. Castro and is promoting instability throughout the region. A Bush Administration that is fighting for free elections in Iraq ought to have higher democratic standards here in the Western Hemisphere.

Why the EU Skipped the Chavez Vote by Mary Anastasia O’Grady

August 27, 2004

Somebody “gets it”, Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal:


Why the EU Skipped the Chavez Vote


By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY
August 27, 2004; Page A13


Given how Jimmy Carter’s presidency turned out, it is not surprising that he is desperate to salvage his legacy as an international election observer.


That effort took a turn for the worse this week when verifiable reports emerged conflicting directly with Mr. Carter’s rendition of what happened in the Aug. 15 Venezuelan recall referendum. The Carter claims of omniscient oversight aside, testimony from reliable independent sources shows that the process did not meet any impartial standards of fairness.


To start with, observer rules were absurd, so much so that although the European Union wanted to play an observer role, it graciously declined in the interest of honesty. “Unfortunately, it has not been possible to secure with the Venezuelan electoral authorities the conditions to carry out an observation in line with the Union‘s standard methodology,” the European Commission declared.


Restraints included the fact that observers were not to be allowed to independently audit the entire vote, as they had demanded in hotly contested battles like Peru’s, when Alberto Fujimori ran for a third time in 2000; and in Chile’s 1988 plebiscite restoring democracy. Moreover, both the number of observers and their movement was to be restricted.


Such conditions were clear impediments to observers yet implausibly, Mr. Carter claimed in a letter to the Journal this week that his center “observed the entire voting process without limitation or restraint.” Mr. Carter’s rosy review of the behavior of President Hugo Chávez contrasts sharply with that of other observers.


Two observers working on behalf of the Organization of American States, writing in Canada‘s Globe and Mail, on Tuesday tried to answer the question of whether the outcome reflects the will of the people. “Yes,” write Ken Frankel and John Graham, “if the focus is on the election-day process. International observers have not uncovered evidence of significant manipulation or voter harassment during voting day or the post-election audits.” But “No,” they say, “if the focus includes Mr. Chávez’s pre-election maneuvers that tilted the table in his favor through control of the electoral apparatus and indirect intimidation.”


By now, the Chávez intimidation factor is legendary and Mr. Carter’s practice of ignoring it, as he did in his letter to the Journal, is baffling. Messrs. Frankel and Graham do not ignore it: “Thousands of citizens who had signed the petition that triggered the referendum lost jobs, pensions or suffered harassment. Many feared that their choice would be known to the government, and the ubiquitous presence of machine-gun-toting soldiers inside and outside the polling stations reinforced this concern.”


Venezuela‘s most important non-governmental election watchdog, Súmate, also strongly contradicts many of Mr. Carter’s claims. For example, Mr. Carter submits that “international machines were tested in advance” and that “extra care was taken to ensure secrecy and accuracy.” But Súmate tells a far different story. It says that while the original recall rules called for manual voting, Mr. Chávez insisted on importing an electronic system and chose Smartmatic voting machines without a transparent bidding process. One ostensible reason for going with Smartmatic was that its machines also create paper ballots, which could be used to audit the vote. But as it turned out, an impartial audit of those ballots was not allowed.


Súmate’s list of grievances does not stop there, and a number of its claims are irrefutable. There was, it says, a “severe limitation to participation in the auditing required by any automated voting system: Auditing the software used by the machines was never permitted, the source code was never released, and finally, access was never allowed into the Totalization Room of CNE [National Electoral Council].”


To support his case, Mr. Carter keeps repeating in the press that Súmate had the same “quick count” as he did. This only creates confusion because “quick count” totals are merely the sum of totals coming from Chávez-controlled voting software.


The only way to check the accuracy of the government’s claim of “victory” was to count ballots. But as Súmate describes in clear detail, Mr. Chávez blocked that process: “When the authorities decided against counting the ballots, the CNE agreed to a very limited audit with the other actors of the process, to count the ballots of only 1% of the ballot boxes, in other words, 192 ballot boxes. Only 76 of the 192 ballot boxes were audited, concentrated in 20 of the 336 municipalities around the country. Promoters of ‘SI’ [Chávez's opposition] were present at only 27 of these audits while international observers were present at only 10 tables. Inexplicably, this did not represent a cause for concern or alarm to the international observers who endorsed the partial results issued by the CNE without that fundamental piece of information.”


Súmate says that contrary to Mr. Carter’s claims, it never agreed to a second audit because, “Once again, inexplicably, the international observers designed an audit together with the CNE without taking into account the petitions of the group requesting the audit, transgressing the universal standard in electoral processes.”


Finally Súmate reminds us of Mr. Chávez’s painstaking review of petition signatures calling for the recall vote, “an exhaustive verification” in which “every signature was checked not by one, but by three different committees of the CNE. Now, this same CNE, inexplicably, prevents a count for transparency’s sake of the ballots that represent definitive proof of the elector’s will.” Mr. Carter’s complicity in the prevention of a reliable vote count was a betrayal of Venezuelan democracy.

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