Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Carter/OAS press conference

As expected, the OAS and Carter Center have ratified the results of the referendum, and you'll be reading about it shortly on the wires or in your Sunday morning papers. I had the (mis) fortune of watching the whole thing on cable here, and will note only a few random points that might not show up in the papers:
  • Jennifer McCoy, for the Carter Center, clarified that they oversaw the random selection of machines to be audited. They compared the actual paper votes with the electronic votes, and found no significant errors. (The Venezuelan government election chief mentioned 0.02% margin of error.)
  • McCoy also said that these machines were actually more reliable than the ones used in her home state of Georgia, in one respect: the machines in Venezuela issued a paper receipt to the voter indicating how that person had just voted. This, of course, was probably why no one was crying wolf during the actual voting.
  • They reiterated several times that OAS/Carter Center, in the presence of the opposition Coordinadora Democrática, had tested the machines prior to the election, and found no problems.
  • In their sampling, they did find a case of two machines at the same voting table which came up with exactly the same figures. But when they checked the paper votes against the electronic vote, they matched up exactly.
  • They said that this was statistically insignificant, and that it seemed these coincidences affected both the opposition and Chavez government alike (as noted in Miami Herald story I linked to yesterday.) However, McCoy said that they were consulting with mathematicians abroad to confirm whether these cases were within the realm of probability.
The press kept asking many of the same questions, and by the end of the press conference, Gaviria almost lost his diplomatic cool and seemed to me to be practically shouting his response to one insistent journalist, who seemed unable to accept the OAS/Carter Center's findings. Gaviria himself did a good job in defending their position, but it seems to me like he'll also be very happy to get on the next plane out of Caracas.

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