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Oddly Enough

Venezuela military tells voters: don't eat your ballot

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez salutes after arriving at a military parade in Maracay, February 4, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - In Venezuela, it’s illegal to eat your vote.

Rebellious voters could go to jail if they protest leftist President Hugo Chavez by munching on paper voting machine receipts in a referendum on Sunday on allowing him to run for re-election.

Gen. Jesus Gonzalez, charged with overseeing the vote’s security, on Wednesday told reporters that voters in regional elections in November tore, balled up or threw away the papers printed by electronic voting machines. Some offenders were detained.

“They’ve eaten them. This is an electoral crime,” Gonzalez said.

The referendum will determine if presidents can stay in office as long as they win elections. Without an electoral win to change the constitution, Chavez should not be able to stand for re-election to another six-year term in 2012.

Venezuelans vote using electronic machines and receive a print-out receipt of their ballot. They have to deposit this paper in a box so that it can be counted as part of an audit trail to ensure the manual receipts match with the electronic results.

Reporting Patricia Rondon Espin, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Saul Hudson and Bill Trott

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