There is outright electoral fraud and there is indirect electoral fraud. However, which one is the most effective depends on the situation. The big difference between the forms of electoral fraud is that the direct electoral fraud is usually cheaper, you just need to stuff the ballot box with the desired count. However, when found out, the consequences may be harsh for the cheating side. On the other hand indirect fraud is considerably more expensive but it has the advantage that when everything is said and done those who sold their vote for any or other reason, did vote for the winner in the end. El Universal today carries some interesting information showing that both forms of fraud were at play one week ago.
Direct electoral fraud
It cannot be proven, yet; however there are hints that it took place, but to an extent that could not have affected the final result.
In a lengthy article El Universal looks at the different voting centers and finds quite a few where Capriles did not get a single vote (39) while there is no center where Chavez did not get at least a vote. Also, there are 4 centers which strangely had 100% participation I mean, this can happen in a small village of a 100 souls where all know each other and are willing to help each one go to the voting station, regardless of political differences. But in urban centers? And nobody made a mistake in those 100% Chavez center?
There are of course some logical possible explanations. It is possible that the CNE reshuffling voters around did create areas where 100% of the population is chavista or chavista influenced. But we must remember that in 2004 the electronic fraud existed, has been statistically established in peer reviewed scientific papers and thus there is a precedent in the regime to butter up its electoral results. We also know that whenever the regime is going to lose an election they have no scruples in annulling them (look at trade union or autonomous university votes).
It is my opinion that the opposition this time around had enough surveillance to make sure that ballot stuffing did not take place at any significant level, but after reading El Universal today I am convinced that the regime did at least test some methods of ballot stuffing just to see how it could work out at a future date. I am sure that they are pleased by the result and that their method will be successfully refined.
Still, let's not be carried away. From that Universal article if such electronic fraud did take place it cannot have concerned more than a couple hundred thousand votes, no more than 1% of the electorate Otherwise by now it would have been only too obvious. My suggestion is for the opposition to start getting more serious on such electronic fraud and look carefully at what happened in those voting centers.
Cost? -100,000 for oppo
Indirect electoral fraud
Unfortunately, it is clear now that this is where the opposition lost the day. And clearly, it was due because the 100% monitoring did not work out and even if, as Leopoldo Lopez claims, less than 1% of the tables were not monitored, too many of those who were monitored did not get the necessary attention. Why? They quit in the middle of the day? They were infiltrated chavistas that in fact worked against the opposition making things worse? Another thing that the opposition needs to come clear with, and quickly. It is not a matter of alloting the blame, it is a matter of taking corrective measures.
In my opinion, away form rumors and conspiracy theories of all sorts, there are two real ways in which the indirect electoral vote fraud worked this time around. One was to discourage opposition voters to vote, and the second was to bring in the chavista vote at the end of the day. All of this fraud is directly to be faulted with the CNE when it decided to extend voting hours from 6 AM to 6 PM. So the culprit of all the irregularities that appeared last Sunday is the electoral board CNE, not only through its lax policies but to a schedule that favors whichever side has the biggest electoral machine by giving it time to work.
Discouraging oppo voters
This was accomplished by creating a morning bottle neck. People were forced to go through a pre-identification step where supposedly you were told your voting table number and given a piece of paper to guide you there. This was totally useless because at the entry of the voting centers you had billboards that already gave you your table number based on your ID last digits.
So, what gave?
In retrospect there were two major advantages for chavismo. First, as I observed in my election day post, chavista centers went smoothly whereas opposition centers got desperately jammed. I even wrote, naively, that it may have been due to finger print detection system because chavista centers had already been duly documented through the misiones which often require finger printing. It was not, it was the bottleneck of a couple of computers checking for hundred of people ID. The first effect is that many people went back home, thinking about trying later, which I did. But if I came back at 3PM to vote without any trouble, how many never went back to vote? It is worthy to note that abstention was higher, by ten points, in many opposition strongholds of Caracas where that deliberate jamming took place.
The opposition must make sure that this bottleneck is removed for December.
Cost? -100,000 for oppo
Preparing for the seek the vote operation
But the biggest benefit of the slowing down described above is that it gave plenty of time for chavismo to figure out who of their flock was voting. At noon, with 6 hours of voting, with perhaps as much as 40% of the country already done with, it was easy in a couple of hours for chavismo to go through their lists and start at 2 PM an operation to go and look for those who had not voted yet. There was 4 hours left for that, and in addition the CNE only closed voting centers past 6:30 PM, giving in practice a full hour more for chavista voters. That is why the lousy exit polls done went Capriles at 2 PM and the election went to Chavez at 6 PM.
El Universal tells us how it worked out. There is that memo from the Nazional Guard participation in the bringing out of the vote (a PDF here). Something of course totally illegal, but who is counting the number of crimes to be attributed to the Nazional Guard? Will the opposition demand that the CNE seek an explanation for such a document?
But in practice, the biggest abuse was that all of the state resources were used shamelessly to carry voters to their stations, even ambulances were used. Hopefully no one got into some medical emergency that day.... You need to read the description of the chavista juggernaut in organizing the seek out the vote operation, from large computing centers coordinating everything, to even well furnished kitchens to feed people as early as 3 AM.
We must not forget that a get out the vote operation is valid anywhere. What makes this one unacceptable is that it was made at the state's expense, with the deliberate help of the army. The opposition also had a bring out the vote operation, but based on volunteers which were already heavily taxed by the need to monitor the voting centers. In these voting centers, there is already an overwhelming majority of chavistas drafted by the CNE and paid for it. In other words, the opposition did not have a chance, it had to pay for the little bit it could do while the huge chavista operation was at no expense for them, just for the tax payer.
The cost? -300,000 for the opposition, at least an extra >500,000 for chavismo
How do I come up with these numbers?
There was a strong intimidation to vote. I already described how the secrecy of the vote was compromised in many centers. But also, if it is 4 PM and an angry chavista knock at your door to tell you that how come you have not voted considering all what Chavez has given you, well, you are scared and you certainly are ready to believe that they will also know how you are going to vote. Thus not only 300,000 potential Capriles voters got scared to vote for him and did so for Chavez but the bring out the vote pressure gave Chavez an extra 500,000 voters. That is, for every vote got by the opposition through seeking actively voters, chavismo probably got 5.
Add it all together and what we get is 1,000,000 votes of Chavez advantage victory that he does not deserve. Note, with that number I still give Chavez a victory since even if I were to shave that 1 million number from his score he still would be getting half a million ahead. But at least that number would be more in agreement with the general tone of the campaign.
It remains that my opinion of Sunday night is still valid, that too many of those Chavez voters are sinvergüenzas because in spite of the disastrous current state of the country and even if abused by the get out the vote proceeding of chavismo, they did not have the guts to vote for Capriles thus approving of such a way to rule. Every country has the government it deserves, and so richly stated in Venezuela.