Tarjetón Blues

Of all the sub-species in the bewildering fauna of Venezuelan oppositionism, the one I understand the least is the Tarjeta Única Jihadist: folk who’ve made it a point of honor to have a single spot on the ballot for the Opposition Candidate, rather than as many spots as parties backing him.

It’s a nice idea, in principle…but only if you’ve never seen a Venezuelan presidential ballot.

Just to jog your memory, here’s what they look like:

It’s 10 p.m.: do you know where your candidate’s tarjeta is?

This is notrepeat, not – a Chigüire Bipolar parody: this is the actual 2006 presidential ballot. Venezuela’s wacky Ballot Access rules make it dead easy to get a spot on a national ballot, yielding this kind of monstrosity even for an election with just two serious candidates!

Now, if the opposition could obtain an unambiguous commitment from the elections authorities to get an easy-to-find spot on the tarjetón – top right corner, say, or at least first row – then the Tarjeta Única might be ok.

But this is CNE we’re talking about, fergodsake: if Capriles was on a Tarjeta Única it would end up on like the third column, nineteenth row, where nobody at all can find it.

I come at this question slightly sideways. When I was 19 years old, I volunteered to run a student election at the little gringo college I went to. We had 1,200 voters, all young, all highly literate, all perfectly capable of figuring out the Preferential Voting system we were using to gauge the popularity of student clubs and organizations.

I remember with shock and horror the absolute dog’s breakfast we got back from the poll, with students just plain unable to decypher the simple instructions I’d written across the top of each ballot.

That experience of running my own little private CNE marked me. You overestimate people’s competence before a ballot paper at your own peril. Everyone struggles. Even elite college students struggle. Why would we make the ordeal harder for the millions of functionally illiterate people we desperately need to woo?

Now, pardon me if I go off on a bit of a rant, but here’s the part I really don’t get:

How is it that an opposition that’s cried itself hoarse over the loss of tens of thousands of votes due to ballot stuffing in remote parts of the country can’t seem to bring itself to care about the tens (or hundreds) of thousands of votes it stands to lose by hiding its tarjeta where its low-information supporters can’t find it?

It’s like a vote lost to ballot stuffing hurts “more” somehow than a vote lost to a obtuse decision of our own.

In an ideal world, we’d have less moronic ballot access rules. I especially like the British model, where candidates have to pay a somewhat considerable (£500) deposit to their local CNE to get on the ballot, and the money is returned to any candidate that tops 5% of the vote. I guarantee the Partido Auténtico Nacional (PANA) would stop cluttering up our ballots with guys who get 0.01% if they had to pay a couple of thousands Bs for the privilege each time.

In that world – a sane world with a sane ballot made up of 5 or 10 tarjetas, with two or three serious candidates alongside a manageable handful of eccentrics and cranks – a Tarjeta Única would be a lovely idea. But that’s not the world we live in. This is the world we live in. And in this world, the Tarjeta Única is a mistake.

So I’m glad Capriles is (ever so politely) rejecting it, and that the MUD has found a mix of words to pacify the Jihadists while basically deciding not to have one.

17 thoughts on “Tarjetón Blues

  1. 130% right. And the parties from the old guard and some of the new know that the candidate becomes a sort of porta aviones for the election, i.e. Chavez and the MVR. It’s just old and dirty politics. Not that I love PJ but this is about what’s best for winning the election, right?


  2. A commendable post. But I find the British system of deposits rather unfair because of the ‘flatness’ of the sum. I would either peg this ‘useless participation tax’ to the participant’s tax return or choose more ‘democratic’ alternatives: a high threshold of signatures or, as in France, the support of an important number of locally elected individuals (which ensures the national competitor already has a regional/local basis). But I definitely agree with the core of the post, the ‘tarjetón’ in its current state is absurd.


  3. If the oppo parties go with their own tarjetas they’ll be competing between themselves to get more votes because that will be their political weight on the gobierno de unidad to come… I think this competition may actually help doing a bigger/better campaign (since they’ll have their own pescuezos at risk and will put all their efforts to have the most Capriles votes on their tarjetas).

    This is probably the same reason why dinosaur parties are all for tarjeta única…. other way it will expose their weakness and probably shift the power balance inside the MUD.

    The paradox is: I’m glad there will be several options, I was totally against the tarjeta única, but I will most likely vote for the tarjeta unitaria because I cannot even imagine myself voting for any of those parties… I think it’s important they measure their weight but my vote is to be counted as a ni-ni


  4. I’ve read some comments about tarjeta unica vs. tarjeta “unitaria”. It would make sense to have unified colors and symbols under the MUD common theme with the individual political party’s name nominating Capriles as their candidate. The unified colors and symbols would diminish the relevance of the political party while stressing the message of unity and the number of cards would still take a good percentage of the ballot showing the support of multiple political organizations representing many different people under a common goal. I think that would make more sense that a single card.


    • I agree.
      I think, from what I’ve been reading, that this is what will happen although I must admit to being somewhat confused.


  5. The only simple enough ranked voting system I’ve seen to meet KISS criteria is the paired voting systems, two by two in series: Who do you prefer between these two? What about these two?

    As to the tarjetón, at least one option could be pure black after campaigning for a steroidy Mi Negra. I can’t believe we are still pulling punches for this election, when we know the other side is not only not pulling any, but punching below the belt with horshoes in the gloves.


    • Forgot to say, my suggestion to MUD, isn’t a tarjeta única but a color único for all tarjetas.


  6. Missing the big picture here IMO.

    Given the fact that his being the simplest election we have had in years (form an administrative point of view)
    >One voting district only (Venezuelan and residents within venezuela, and venezuelians abroad)
    >Two options : HC vs HCR

    MUD shoud be pushing for paper ballot.

    We keep going forward with an unaudited voter franchise, an unaudited technological platform and a ilegal president campaign….

    Solitos al matadero.


    • I like your last sentence LuisF. It is just a smokescreen for the lack of policies, diction, speeches and charism, that Capriles ought to have but falls far short.

      Your average oppo voter doesn’t give a flying f*** about al this trajeta única (MOVILNET) or tarjeta unitaria – they will just vote for Capriles period…….and see their votes wasted.

      If you do not trust the CNE then that’s easy – withdraw from the election as the opposition did in the 2005 AN elections. Better to shut up and get on with trying to climb a little in the polls but as far as I can see this gap of at least 20 points and as high as 36 points is IRREVERSIBLE with 4 and one half months to go to voting day.

      I note that Bank of America-Merrill Lynch see Chavez winning and even a substitute for Chavez if he is too sick to stand as candidate. Six more years Quico……when will you get it right – that will be almost 20 years of being wrong but you are very resilient.


      • I see the indispensable, non-replaceable, unique and wonderful incumbent, the undisputed leader of the revolution, the government candidate KILLING himself, very literally, if he dares to begin campaign. Or if he dares to do anything that not is absolute rest. No worry if he gets to elections and elected, because maybe Venezuelans are irredeemably idiotic. He will have killed himself.

        That changes the game for sure. The dead cannot hold office.


  7. I understand your point and it’s a good one, however I strongly disagree. You can educate people with panfletos, propagandas y vallas about how to vote, but you won’t stop the ridiculous war for la target más votada without Tarjeta Única. Just like we saw in the 2010 election in Chacao every street lamppost had 5 banners, all of them for María Corina Machado, but one for AD, one for PJ, one for COPEI, etc. Plus you had internal problems because PJ disagreed with AD´s slogan and so on…
    We need a centralized strategy with our scarce resources aimed where they need to be, in the places where people aren´t informed about HCR´s ideas for a better Venezuela.
    As much as I hate AD and Henry Ramos, I agree with him on this one, and I think this is just about pj´s ego. They need to remember, We´re all in on this one. Not only because of the presidency, but who ever wins here will also arrasar with alcaldias y gobernaciones


  8. Hey! Maybe having so many real estate on a ballot is a way of ensuring the visibility of your candidate, and that maybe a few randomly placed votes fall on your side.

    What Virtok suggests is sane, to ensure that some easily recognizable colors (or symbol) are on every Capriles supporter spot. The Tarjeta Unitaria should be there, for people who would not give their vote to any of the other parties.


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