How did they commit the fraud?
An empirical basis for talking about fraud is revealed in the electoral data collected and in the population’s generalized perception
that the irregularities in the 2011 elections were so widespread and varied that
we can’t know the real result, as the author shows
in this detailed analysis of last November’s electoral fraud.
José Antonio Peraza
Before the presidential sash was re-bestowed upon Daniel Ortega on January 10, a group of Nicaraguan statisticians and mathematicians, coordinated by political scientist José Antonio Peraza and backed by the US-funded Movement for Nicaragua and Let’s Make Democracy, unveiled in Managua a study titled “Elecciones 2011: ¿Manipulación o ruptura del patrón electoral histórico?” The study’s aim was to scientifically prove the alleged electoral fraud of November 6, 2011.
“If there was no fraud, it would mean the historical voting pattern was broken starting in 2008 and with much greater force in 2011. But we believe it’s very hard to break that pattern by the amount they claim,” stated Peraza when he presented the study, based on an analysis of the Nicaraguan electorate’s historical behavior in general and municipal elections since 1990. Peraza later published another text, titled “Una radiografía de los fraudes electorales de 2008 y 2011.” We offer both texts below, taken from a PowerPoint presentation, and thus edited by envío to aid our readers’ comprehension.
Manipulation or a break with The denunciations made by citizens and political parties and a review of the reports by both national and international electoral observation organizations reveal a generalized perception that the irregularities in the 2011 electoral process were so widespread and varied that it is impossible to know the real result of the past elections. These perceptions have an empirical basis provided by the electoral data collected.
the historical voting pattern?
The working hypothesis that formed the basis for our analysis of those data is underpinned by a central element: the 20-year history of results from the voting tables [known as Juntas Receptoras de Votos or JRVs]. Since 1990, the JRVs have displayed an extremely regular and predictable percentage of Sandinista and anti-Sandinista votes. In an electoral system as stable as Nicaragua’s, it is very difficult to explain a radical alteration in this behavior pattern simply as a change in voters’ political option.
This pattern was repeated in all general and municipal elections from 1990 to 2006, in which the anti-Sandinista vote always exceeded the Sandinista vote by similar pro¬portions:
1990 (57% to 43%)
1996 (60% to 40%)
General elections only
2001 (58% to 42%)
2006 (59% to 41%)
Municipal elections only
2000 (59% to 41%)
2004 (56% to 44%)
There is also a historical consistency to the anti-Sandinista vote exceeding the Sandinista vote in the municipality of Managua [which because it contains the capital is far and away the most populous municipality], both in the 2001 and 2006 general elections and in the 2004 municipal elections.
Comparing voting tables,In the 2008 municipal elections, the results presented by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) indicated a radical alteration in the behavior of the JRVs in most of the country’s municipalities. Was Nicaraguan voters’ historical behavior pattern broken or was there fraud? We were unable to collect information from the JRVs in all municipalities, but did manage to do so from a significant number in Managua, so we investigated the latter. That information allows us to answer the question posed.
votes and tally sheets
The CSE webpage did not publish the results from all of Managua’s JRVs in the 2008 elections, but we were able to collect the tally sheets from 604 JRVs in Managua, the only municipality with that level of documentation. The We’re Going with Eduardo Movement recovered those tally sheets [from their JRV monitors] and published them in the newspaper La Prensa. Using those tally sheets and the recorded results for the same JRVs from the 2006 general elections, we initiated an analysis to try to explain the 2008 electoral fraud.
First we established a hypothetical electoral scenario for 2006 in the municipality of Managua by combining the voting results of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) to discover how many of the JRVs these two Liberal parties would have won had they joined forces. Doing so, we determined that had they united that year, the ALN + PLC would have beaten the FSLN by under 10% in 342 of Managua’s 1,824 JRVs, and by a difference equal to or greater than 10% in 1,124. The Sandinista National Liberation Front FSLN only won 344, giving it the published total of 36.62% of the votes compared to a combined total of 63.68% for the ALN + PLC.
Of the 604 Managua tally sheets it was possible to rescue in 2008, Montealegre won 552 JRVs—precisely the ones whose results the CSE failed to publish, or that “disap¬peared.” It only published the results from those in which the FSLN had historically won (344 in 2006) or where the opposition to the FSLN tended to win, but with only a slight advantage. When we compared those 552 JRV tallies with the JRVs won by a hypothetically united opposition in the municipality of Managua in 2006, they coincided in 505 cases (91.49%). Such a coincidence reveals the close relationship between the JRVs in which the anti-Sandinista vote has historically won and those subject to concealment, destruction, fraud and all kinds of alterations and abuses by the CSE.
Establishing the JRVs in the “risk scenario”To analyze the 2011 electoral fraud, we created a three-way scenario involving the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) Alliance, the PLC and the FSLN, [leaving out the two parties whose results were negligible].
To define the JRVs at risk of alteration, disappearances, etc., we then added the criterion that the PLI Alliance had to have beaten the FSLN by a percentage equal to or higher than 10%. We subsequently analyzed the “migration” of JRVs among parties [from the opposition to the FSLN] between 2006 and 2011, cross referencing them with the JRVs won in 2006 by the ALN + Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which for all extents and purposes made up the 2011 PLI Alliance, that then “disappeared” in 2011 [although it cannot be automatically assumed that everyone who voted for the leftist MRS in 2006 would have also voted for it in a rightwing alliance in 2011]. Those JRVs accounted for 1,496 of the national total. Finally, we located them geographically and compared them with those that the ALN + MRS won in 2006. This resulted in several findings.
Our findingsIn recent years the CSE has employed the strategy of concealing—”disappearing”—JRVs in which the opposition consistently beat the FSLN in all elections since 1990, even when it ran divided. This strategy became more evident after the 2008 electoral fraud, particularly in the municipality of Managua, where 91.49% of the disappeared JRVs corresponded to those identified in the “at risk scenario,” i.e. where the opposition won with 10% or more of the votes.
We found this same behavior pattern nationally in the 2011 elections. Only 2,974 of the 4,470 JRVs that the ALN + MRS (i.e. 2011’s PLI Alliance) won in 2006 were recorded, with no records for 1,494. Of those not recorded, 70.19% (1,050 JRVs) belong to the “risk scenario” and represent 33% of the total of 3,260 JRVs identified as at risk for the 2011 elections. Fifty-five percent of these are in the department of Managua, 10% in Chinandega, 8.22% in Granada and 5% in Carazo, the very departments in which the citizens most denounced fraud.
Of the 816 of these JRVs disappeared and identified as at risk that are in the department of Managua, 748 (91.67%) belong to the municipality of Managua and 488 of them (65.24%) correspond to the “risk scenario,” most of them located in districts 3, 5 and 6 of the capital. The CSE also did not present the results for 259 of these same 488 JRVs (53%) in 2008. Of the 9,134 JRVs for which we do have records for the 2011 elections, 1,249 were created after the 2006 elections, many of them at the last moment by the CSE as “virtual” JRVs.
Based on these comparisons and quantifications, it became evident that the FSLN’s main opponent in 2011 was the PLI Alliance, which could explain why a substantial number of the 1,496 JRVs for which we have no information in these elections were ones won by the ALN + MRS in 2006. Substantially fewer JRVs with the same characteristics (425) correspond to the PLC.
An x-ray of the 2008 and 2011 In light of the multiple irregularities and denunciations of electoral fraud, no informed observer can doubt that both the 2008 municipal elections and the 2011 presidential elections were riddled with fraud. The focus and the modalities, however, differed in the two cases.
In 2008, the FSLN monitors challenged JRVs where the FSLN has historically lost by 10% or more of the votes and expelled opposition monitors from the JRVs so they couldn’t observe what was being done during the ballot counting. The electoral logic that year was to eliminate or alter the results in the largest number of those JRVs. In order to justify challenging and asking for annulment of JRVs selected for the fraud, the FSLN members of the JRVs and their allies perpetrated the largest number of “mistakes” possible. This included things such as altering the security codes and JRV members’ signatures on the electoral ballots, or changing the JRV code on the opening and closing documents and the tally sheet. By declaring whole JRVs null and void, all parties lost votes, but the opposition lost more because it had received more in those JRVs.
In addition, most of the irregularities took place in the Municipal Vote Computing Centers, where FSLN and allied officials from the Municipal Electoral Councils (CEMs) colluded in the fraud with the FSLN monitors at that level. The monitors there illegally challenged JRV results where the FSLN was losing, when by law challenges can only be filed in the actual JRVs, before the package of ballots, tallies, etc. are sent on. The monitors and CEM officials also colluded to alter, change and disappear tally sheets.
A very crude but widespread practice that year was to alter the results on the tally sheets by adding a 1 or 2 to the left of the original number of votes for the FSLN in JRVs where it had lost. If the FSLN had received 85 votes in a JRV, they put a 1 or 2 to the left of that number so the tally sheet showed the party with 185 or 285 votes.
Electoral Council officials also annulled votes and even whole JRVs not only in the CEMs but also the Departmental Electoral Councils (CEDs), without explanation. Tally sheets were also omitted without distinction from the sum-up sheets of the Municipal and Departmental Vote Computing Centers. As a corollary, the CEDs accepted all challenges from the Sandinista monitors in the CEMs, even knowing it was illegal to receive and resolve them at that level.
While the basic strategy that year was to eliminate the greatest amount of votes from the opposition by annulling votes and JRVs in the Municipal Computer Centers through unfounded challenges, the 2011 electoral fraud was more sophisticated and collaboration was not limited only to CSE officials and FSLN monitors. It also included the participation of the micro-parties participating in the elections, such as the ALN [after the CSE took the party away from Eduardo Montealegre] and Alliance for the Republic (APRE). Many of the pieces of this strategy were put in place in the days and months leading up to the elections and went mostly undetected by the PLI Alliance and the PLC.
The six pillars of the 2011 electoral fraudAlthough there were again many irregularities, the 2011 electoral fraud was based on six main pillars that supported all of the others. The first was the FSLN’s almost absolute control of all Supreme Electoral Council authorities: the CEDs, CEMs and JRVs.
The second was the infiltration and substitution of ALN and APRE JRV members and monitors by FSLN members and monitors. This controlled and isolated the PLI Alliance and PLC monitors on election day, allowing the FSLN to count the votes alone. The FSLN had absolute control of these JRVs via voting table members, monitors, electoral police officers and the newly instituted voting center coordinators, who cover several JRVs.
The third was the failure to ensure timely and appropriate delivery of credentials to over 5,000 PLI Alliance monitors and their alternates, which hindered them from monitoring the JRVs. This happened mainly in JRVs where the FSLN has historically lost by large margins. The PLI Alliance monitors who were present were hindered from making challenges or were expelled from the JRVs when it came time to count the votes. Another very serious incident was the impeding of PLI Alliance monitors who did have their credentials from being present when the electoral materials were received the day before the elections and when the JRVs officially opened in the early hours of voting day. In many JRVs the ballot boxes very likely already contained ballots illegally introduced by JRV members in complicity with FSLN, ALN and APRE party monitors.
The fourth was the failure of JRV members to count the blank ballots they had received before opening the JRVs and those unused when voting closed. This anomalous procedure meant that the JRV members fully controlled the number of ballots, making it impossible to compare the number received, those used and those not used to verify whether they corresponded to the number of people who actually voted, as mandated by article 123 of the Electoral Law.
The fifth pillar consists of the alterations made to almost all procedures historically used in the JRVs. For example, the CSE designed a single ballot for the four elections that took place on voting day this time (President, national legislators, departmental legislators and Central American Parliament legislators), even though the Electoral Law stipulates it must employ a different ballot for each election. More significantly, the ballot papers were all previously marked with a pre-established security number, again contrary to the law, which establishes that this should be done in agreement among the given JRV members the morning of that JRV’s opening. A supposed total of 400 ballot papers were delivered to each JRV by weight, when their number was previously always defined by each JRV’s electoral roll. The legal practice that at least two members of the JRV had to sign each ballot was eliminated.
And finally, at the last moment the CSE appointed a coordinator for each voting center, which groups together several JRVs. All were FSLN members who acted and had to be treated as CSE officials, obeyed by all JRV members. These officials, who are not defined in the Electoral Law, violated most of the election procedures established in the same law.
They counted the stuffed ballot boxes aloneWe can draw some conclusions from all of these anomalies. The PLI Alliance, and more so the PLC, lacked the capacity to organize an army of monitors to confront the new conditions demanded by the growing history of fraud. They faced these new conditions with traditional methods and with fewer resources and capacities. They were unable to foresee the loss of control over the ballots in the JRVs, let alone protect the strategic JRVs where they have always beaten the FSLN.
While the logic of the 2008 fraud centered on the Municipal Counting Centers and their illegal challenging and annulling of votes and JRVs, the logic in 2011 was to control the JRVs absolutely through all the members, monitors, electoral police and voting center coordinators who belonged to the FSLN or its allies and were dedicated to neutralizing the PLI Alliance monitors. This allowed the FSLN to count the votes alone and stuff the ballot boxes with far more votes than it has historically received.