CARACAS, Venezuela—The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) sent four members to accompany the National Assembly Elections in Venezuela that took place on December 6, 2015. Guild members collectively visited close to 30 polling centers on the day of the election in eight municipalities, where they observed hundreds of voters participate. The delegation found that there were no instances of fraud or serious irregularities, and overall voter satisfaction with the electoral process.
In the weeks leading up to the elections, both US mainstream media and government officials unreasonably questioned the validity of the Venezuelan electoral process, which has been declared by former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, to be “the best [electoral system] in the world.”
Despite long-standing allegations of fraud by the opposition, yesterday’s election, with a 75% voter turn-out, proves the deeply rooted trust of the Venezuelan people in their democracy and electoral system. NLG President Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan said, “Yesterday’s elections proved that regardless of the results, voters reaffirmed their electoral process. As it has for the past 17 years, democracy remains vibrant and inclusive in Venezuela.”
One voter in the City of Barlovento said the electoral system is “safe, easy and trustworthy” compared to the electoral process prior to 1998, which had been easily manipulated. In the past 17 years, there have been 20 elections held in Venezuela, each with overwhelming civic participation. The general climate around the voting process was amicable, despite a lingering threat of violence. As a voter in Municipio Libertador, Capital District, said, “Welcome to this great democratic fiesta.”
The NLG delegation observed, as it has in previous years, an electoral process with built-in accountability measures at various levels, including political party witnesses at each voting table, a citizen’s audit of 54% of the vote, ample electoral laws to protect access to voting on election day, and ongoing transparency and oversight by the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE). Venezuelan voters have repeatedly demonstrated their trust in the reliability and transparency of their electoral process, whereas in the United States, instances of voter suppression, vote dilution in communities of color, unlimited corporate financing of campaigns, elimination of voter protection and the gutting of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and voter disenfranchisement laws continue to undermine democracy. “Rather than fomenting unwarranted distrust about elections with a proven track record for being legitimate, or using critiques as a smokescreen for pushing neoliberal policies abroad, the United States could address the transparency of our own elections by inviting international observers in 2016,” said NLG International Committee Co-Chair, Jordan Winquist.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.