Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

TSE announces 61.3% Participation; other estimates range lower

(Corrected at 8 AM EST) The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) headed by Saul Escobar, reported in national broadcast at 10:00 pm, that turnout was 61.3%. He also reported they had preliminary, unaudited, results, from about 8,600 polling places (out of 15,300), that they had counted 1.7 million votes for all offices so far.

However, these were unaudited results because the system they had set up to verify the numbers transmitted by cell phone, which appears to have been to make a digital recording of the call, failed, so they have not been able to check that the numbers digitized and entered into the vote counting computers matched the numbers called in by the various polling places.

The TSE is spinning this turnout as just what you would expect given the recent trends, which they said was in line with a 6% per election decline in each of the last several elections, even though this is a supposed increase.

Already, La Prensa reports in their Minute by Minute column a turnout of 61.3 % which would be an increase, not a decrease, from the previous election. This would lead one to expect approximately 2.8 million votes.

So, what does this mean in terms of legitimacy of the election and effectiveness of the call for boycott by the Frente de Resistencia? Even by the TSE's numbers, which are unaudited and preliminary, and don't match with press reports, that's a 38.7% abstention rate.

The TSE had hired a polling firm to do exit polling. They presented a report the TSE conference as well. They sampled 1000 polling places (of the 15300) and reported only a 47.6% participation rate (at a 98% confidence level). This report is more in line with what the Frente de Resistencia. The polling firm further reported they saw a 7% decline in voting over 2005. The results reported by the TSE are based on their sample precincts.

Thus we can expect a great deal of interpretation being projected into the void.

El Tiempo, in a story projecting Pepe Lobo as winner, reported that the TSE had counted 570,954 votes from 4159 polling places "selected strategically to have the tendency in all the country". This is a sample of 27.2% of the planned polling places. While it would not scale directly (since other polling places could have larger numbers of voters) it is curious to see 1/3 of the polls yield only 500,000 votes, and still have claims for 62% turnout, which would project 2.8 million votes overall.

This would be implied by the turnout estimate Bloomberg reports, citing TSE magistrate Danny Matamoros (although it is unclear when Matamoros made this statement, whether before the 10 PM announcement over radio that we report on here, or after). Matamoros is widely quoted as claiming long lines of voters led to the indelible ink running out, which makes him seem rather invested in portraying this as a huge electoral turnout. As in most elections, we are likely to need to wait sometime for official figures, and meanwhile, unofficial claims will likely be taken up and repeated as if they were established facts.

The next thing to watch for are reports of the differences between votes cast and valid votes, to detect any effect from deliberate null voting.

For now, if the TSE's approved exit polling projection reported at 10 PM can be taken at face value (rather than the unsupported claim made at the same time), there was no massive turnout of Honduran voters yearning to use the ballot box to move beyond the coup. At best, there was a continuation of the long-established gradual discouragement of eligible voters about the worth of voting, which we have previously suggested is itself a kind of unorganized protest against elected government.

But it is also reasonable to propose that there was a measurable effect from the campaign to boycott the vote, whether we use Boz's numbers (and say that about 100,000 voters stayed home in protest) or suggest a different target number would have been reasonable in such a politicized election year.

That the results would favor Porfirio Lobo was never in question. The actual numbers are unvailable on the TSE website as of 8 am this morning, and the website for vitural observers that gave access to the cameras, is not broadcasting images of the count.

So much for the TSE's promise that they had a triple backup system that would prevent any delays in delivering the results. They made the results official without having actually successfully counted the votes.


Fábio Baqueiro said...

But the link to the results in Honduras ellectoral court simply do not work... Why should it be so?
Check in and click in "Escrutínio y transmisión de resultados preliminares".

rns said...

Yes, I know about that link. When I click on it, I get a "cannot connect" to the server message from my browser. There is no web server runnning there accessible from the outside world.

Are you saying you can connect to it and see results? If so, please share them.

And while we're at it, the virtual observer cameras are turned off in the rooms where counting is supposedly going on.

Victor said...

For what it's worth, I'm able to bring up the webcams and see the count going on. I had no problems with any of the links, other than the fact that it's a bit slow.

rns said...

The video is back up (it was aparently just down because it was too early in the morning) but I cannot get to the Escrutinio link at all. When I bring up the TSE website now, the Escrutinio y Transmission de Resultados button is not a link.

The cameras seem to show people sitting around not doing muchof anything on the computers.