Smartmatic's Null Vote Shame

How Smartmatic is trying to turn an election where its crap user interface disenfranchised more than 686,000 people into a PR win.

Check out the glossy PR being passed around by Smartmatic, the contractor whose hardware and software handled Venezuela’s legislative election. “Ultimately,” the company gloats “the success in Venezuela shows how technology can make elections more accurate, transparent and accessible.”

One number, though, slipped their PR department’s eagle eye: the staggering 686,119 null votes their crappy user interface generated.

That’s a scandal, the equivalent to having the whole of Barcelona, Venezuela’s 7th biggest city, struck off the voter rolls completely simply because you hired a bunch of incompetents to design the system. That’s one in 20 voters, or 15 times the number disenfranchised by the MIN-Unidad trick!

To give you an idea of just how bad it was, the circuit that decided the election was Aragua 3 (La Victoria), where the opposition’s Karin Salanova beat the government’s Rosa León to take the all important 112th seat by a mere 82 votes. In that same district, a staggering 15,992 votes were anulled, more than 10% of the total.

Remarkably, Nicolas Maduro is now using Aragua 3 to, in effect, cry fraud, saying the null votes cost the government the seat.

The really crazy part is, he may have a point.

As @Puzkas writes, Null Votes were much more prevalent in pro-government circuits than pro-opposition ones. That makes sense: the voting system is complicated, and the machines unforgiving. If you made any mistake in the convoluted voting procedure, the machines would just invalidate your vote before ever giving you a warning and a chance to fix it. (Correction: the machine does prompt you in certain circumstances, but the wording of the prompt is unclear.)

You’d expect less well educated voters to be especially prone to making those kinds of mistakes, and government supporters are less well educated than opositores. It seems at least probable that more of the 15,992 people in Aragua 3 whose votes were invalidated had intended to vote for PSUV than for the opposition.

What the government is doing, though, is conjugating fraud in the conditional tense: if we hadn’t insisted on calling this incompetently designed voting system the Best in the World and had instead demanded proper testing to ensure the machines tallies accurately reflected underlying voting intentions, then we would’ve gotten more votes. A llorar pa’l valle, mis panas.

There’s a real chance, though, that Smartmatic perpetrated a kind of hapless fraud on its own paymaster. Through the power of crap user interface design, el mejor sistema electoral del mundo might have gifted the 112th seat to the other side.

It’s like raaaaiiiiin, on your wedding day…