The vote is almost certain to return congress from opposition leader and interim president Juan Guaidó to Maduro's allies despite an economy in ruins, aggressive U.S. sanctions on the regime's oil exports, and the migration of some 5 million citizens. Congress is the nation's last institution not controlled by Maduro's Socialist Party.
The vote could, however, provide legitimacy for Maduro to offer investment deals to the few companies around the world willing to risk running afoul of Washington's sanctions for access to the world's largest oil reserves.
"Vote for what?" said Nellie Delgado, 70, who works as an administrator at an evangelical church in Caracas. "The country's situation is grave, and my pension is worthless, but there's no good option."
Fewer people than in past elections were waiting to vote outside Caracas-area polling stations on Sunday morning, Reuters witnesses said. Maduro allies said on Sunday that the short lines were the result of quick, efficient voting systems.
In the opposition stronghold of eastern Caracas, lines were shorter at voting centers than at service stations, where drivers can spend hours trying to buy fuel that is scarce because of collapse of the oil industry.
The election closes a cycle that began in 2015 when a euphoric opposition celebrated winning congress by a landslide, only to see their legislative powers swept aside by pro-Maduro courts and the creation in 2017 of an all-powerful body known as the National Constituent Assembly.
Maduro blames the country's woes on Guaidó, which he says has used its control of congress and support from the United States to sabotage the economy.
Violation of the ConstitutionOpposition leaders and their overseas allies say government meddling in the election process simply went too far.
The pro-government supreme court handed key opposition parties to politicians who were expelled from those parties on suspicion of being in league with Maduro, effectively allowing the government to choose the opposition.
They note the elections council was named without the participation of the opposition-run congress, in violation of the constitution, and that Maduro's government refused to allow for meaningful electoral observation.
Those countries are expected to continue their recognition of Guaidó.