Detecting Voter Fraud in an Electronic Voting Context: An Analysis of the Unlimited Reelection Vote in Venezuela

Working Paper No.: 
Date Published: 
Michael Alvarez
Peter Ordeshook

Between December 2007 and February 2009, Venezuelans participated twice in constitutional referenda where
the elimination of presidential term limits was one of the most salient proposals. Assuming voter preferences
did not change significantly during that period, the ‘repeated’ character of these elections provide us with an excellent opportunity to apply forensic tools designed to detect anomalies and outliers in election returns in elections where electronic voting technologies were used. Similar tools were first applied by Myagkov et al. ([20], [21],[22], [23]) to the study of electoral fraud in Russia and Ukraine, and were effective in the isolation of potential cases of manipulation of electoral returns. The case of Venezuela is different because there exists no widespread agreement about the integrity or otherwise fraudulent nature of national elections, and because it is a nation where electronic voting technologies are used. Unless electoral fraud takes place in exactly the same manner in each election, an analysis of the ‘flow of votes’ between elections can be used to detect suspicious patterns in electoral returns. Although we do not find evidence of pervasive electoral fraud compared, for instance, to the Russian case, our analysis is useful to detect polling places or regions deviating considerably from the more general pattern.

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