Should Brazilians trust electronic voting machines? Part 2

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The first round of Brazil’s 2022 presidential election is scheduled for October 2. This will be the seventh national presidential election using electronic voting machines, which are similar to self-service touchscreen devices found in fast food restaurants. Besides Brazil, other countries that use electronic voting machines nationwide include Bhutan, India, and Venezuela.

These voting machines were introduced in elections in Brazil with the aim of improving efficiency and saving money. However, there are several reports of issues with the country’s electronic system, although these reports are generally ignored.

In 2012, a hacker alleged to an audience at the Society of Engineers and Architects of Rio de Janeiro that he rigged that year’s local elections by intercepting data fed into the vote counting system. He modified the results in the computer of the regional electoral court in order to favor certain candidates without the fraud being detected.

Using the code name “Rangel”, he explains how he acted to rig the results:

“We accessed the electoral tribunal network during the transmission of the results, and after 50% of the data had already been transmitted, we struck. We changed the results, even when the count was about to be closed.

Protesters take part in a rally in support of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and calling for a printed voting model on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 1, 2021. (Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images)

During the Brazilian presidential election of 2014, electoral delegates in the capital Porto Velho, in the state of Rondônia, discovered that only the number 13 appeared on the screen of the voting machine.

According to delegate Evaldo Filho, who was monitoring the vote on the site, more than 20 people had complained that the machine only displayed that specific number whenever the voter typed in another candidate’s number. The problem was reported to the regional electoral court by members of this polling station and electoral delegates.

As a solution, Electoral Judge Álvaro Káliz Ferreira explained: “After the first complaint about the machine, the technicians looked into the problem and the system was restarted, so there were no more problems.

“There was no need to change the equipment. Voting continued on the spot.

Is Brazil’s electorate ignoring the evidence

Eight years ago, the Federal Public Ministry relied on a comprehensive report by academic researchers at the University of Brasilía to point out that the country’s electronic voting system was “faulty and cannot guarantee the confidentiality of the vote and the ‘integrity of election results’.

The report discussed “vulnerabilities in the program used in these voting machines, with the potential effect of violating the vote count”.

Primarily compiled by prosecutor Pedro Antonio Machado, the report also stated that due to restrictions imposed by the Federal Election Tribunal (TSE), these researchers were not allowed to undertake more conclusive tests, making it impossible to demonstrate the existence of other electronic system vulnerabilities.

According to cybersecurity professor Diego Aranha of the University of Campinas, these researchers only had five hours to access the source code of the voting software.

In 2018, Aranha was invited by the TSE to take part in the official tests of these electronic voting machines. However, the electoral judges asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting him from disclosing any information concerning the results of this investigation.

He refused to sign the agreement because he thought the results should be made public. But, he finally agreed to participate as the coordinator of the testing researchers, later explaining in an interview that vulnerabilities had been discovered in these electronic machines.

In a public hearing conducted by the Federal Election Tribunal, Aranha saw members of that tribunal claim that at no time during these tests was the secrecy or integrity of the votes violated, a claim that he considers it a “blatant lie”.

According to him, “the problems are much more serious than the TSE claims”. After learning of the interview, the Federal Election Court issued a statement saying that Aranha’s disclosure of the security breaches posed “a threat to democracy.”

Epoch Times Photo
Brazil’s current president and re-election candidate Jair Bolsonaro talks to supporters during a campaign rally and military demonstration on Brazil’s 200th Independence Day at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sept. 7, 2022. (Wagner Meier/Getty Images)

Confidence must be restored in the Brazilian electoral process

On August 10, 2021, the National Congress failed to pass a proposed constitutional amendment proposal that required the printing of “physical ballots that can be verified by the voter.” This was the third unsuccessful attempt to pass an amendment requiring the printing of votes in addition to simple electronic voting.

These proposals were rejected by the legislature largely thanks to the lobbying of then TSE President Luís Roberto Barroso, a strong advocate of electronic voting machines, who managed to convince enough MPs to reject these proposals. constitutional amendment.

Curiously, the nation’s electoral system is explicitly ordered to respect the principle of the publicity of the vote counting according to article 37 of the Brazilian Constitution.

It is therefore essential for Brazilians to find better and more reliable means of enforcing this constitutional principle by ensuring greater publicity and transparency in their entire electoral process. In the interest of both, paper voting should be reintroduced with the counting of votes carried out on the spot and immediately after the closing time of the voting booth.

Although reintroducing paper voting would make vote counting longer, at least this manual process would provide more confidence in the results than the electronic system currently adopted in Brazil.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Augusto Zimmermann

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Augusto Zimmermann is Professor and Director of Law at the Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth. He is also President of the Western Australian (WA) Legal Theory Association, Editor of The Western Australian Jurist and was a member of the WA Law Reform Commission from 2012 to 2017. Zimmermann is the author of numerous books, including “Direito Constitucional Brasileiro”, “Western Legal Theory” and “Christian Foundations of the Common Law”.

Thomas Korontai

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Thomas Korontai is a Brazilian businessman, journalist and national coordinator of Convergências, a coalition of citizens aspiring to adopt public counting in the Brazilian electoral system. He is also the founder and president of the Instituto Federalista do Brasil.

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