On Dec. 6 Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect their representatives in high-stakes legislative elections. The vote comes amid international scrutiny over the integrity of the country’s electoral process. The U.S. government, the Organization of American States (OAS) and human rights groups have all called for credible elections. Some in the U.S. media have already indicted the elections’ validity. But these critics ignore the fact that thousands of domestic observers and hundreds of international monitors from the Union of South American Nations and other groups have already signed on to oversee the elections. It is clear that much of the diplomatic posturing is not meant to protect Venezuela’s electoral integrity but to further delegitimize the government of President Nicolás Maduro. No election system is perfect, but Venezuela has one of the most efficient, secure and transparent electoral systems. “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” said former President Jimmy Carter in 2012 — praise echoed by other neutral observers.
Venezuelan voters use electronic machines, which print out a paper receipt that allows voters to check their choices against the electronic ballot. After voting has ended, 54 percent of machines are audited at random, in the presence of witnesses from pro-government and opposition political parties, and compared with a tally of paper receipts. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has implemented additional safeguards and audits, making the process more inclusive than ever before, with 96.5 percent of eligible Venezuelans registered to vote (compared with fewer than 76 percent of eligible Americans).
With the support of the Carter Center (a nonprofit organization run by Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter) and other pro-democracy groups, Venezuela has developed strong, independent national observation groups. “Despite refusal of the CNE to allow substantial international observation, its relationship with domestic observers has actually improved,” according to David Smilde, a senior fellow at the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America. “They have been granted almost twice as many credentials as they had three years ago, which improves their capacity.”
After having international observers in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the CNE decided in 2007 to no longer welcome observation by the OAS. It noted that the OAS, the European Union, the Carter Center and other international observers had repeatedly affirmed the integrity of Venezuela’s electoral system. So the electoral authority replaced the observer missions with a system of international accompaniment — perceived as more respectful of Venezuela’s sovereignty — while strengthening national observation.