Brazil's voters worry about the integrity of their elections
Reasons to believeBrazilâs voters worry about the integrity of their elections
The electronic voting system is very fast and quite safe
Americas| SÃO PAULO
ON OCTOBER 7th 147m Brazilians, scattered across an area nearly as big as the United States, will cast votes for 1,654 executive and legislative jobs, including the presidency. Brazil will know the results an hour or two after polls close. It was the first country to make voting fully electronic, in 2000. A half-million machines the size of desktop printers tally votes both in cosmopolitan SÃ£o Paulo and in remote villages in the Amazon, to which they are brought by riverboat. Results from the Amazon are beamed by satellite to BrasÃlia, the capital.
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Brazilians have no reason to doubt that the vote count will be accurate. The 22 years since the country first tried electronic voting âhave not produced a single solid caseâ of tampering that affected the results, says Gerardo de Icaza of the Organisation of American States. But in this yearâs election, marked by popular disgust with the corrupt political establishment, many voters are not taking that for granted. The percentage of Brazilians who see elections as honest, which has been declining for years, has now reached a record low of 14%, according to Gallup, a pollster (see chart).
Mistrust is especially high among supporters of the front-runner, Jair Bolsonaro, a ferociously right-wing populist. âNo one trusts the voting machines because they are made in Venezuela,â says Bruno Mourato, a camouflage-shirted Bolsonaro supporter at a rally on Leblon beach in Rio de Janeiro. That conspiracy theory, spread by social media, is widely believed. In fact, the machines are made in Brazil by Procomp, a subsidiary of Diebold Nixdorf, an American firm; Brazilâs supreme electoral tribunal (TSE) created the software. Nevertheless, Mr Bolsonaro himself has suggested that any result other than a victory for him in the probable second round, scheduled for October 28th, would ha ve to be fraudulent.
Election officials say the shift from paper ballots reduced fraud and votos de cabresto, or âbridle votingâ (ie, coercion). In the paper era counts could last for weeks, fuelling violence. Machines made voting easier for illiterate people, which reduced by a tenth the number of blank and spoilt ballots. The enfranchisement of the poor led to increased spending by states on health care, according to Thomas Fujiwara, an economist at Princeton University. âFor countries with huge populations and large extensions of land, electronic voting has proved effective,â says Mr Icaza.
But it could cause problems. Hackers invited by the TSE to test the system concluded that, while an unscrupulous politician would find it nearly impossible to commit large-scale fraud because the machines are not connected to the internet, someone with access to the software, ie, someone connected with the TSE, could manipulate results without being detected. That is because Brazil lacks a âvoter-verified paper audit trailâ. Congress has voted twice to modify the system so that voters receive printed receipts, which could be checked in case of technical glitches or allegations of fraud. Mr Bolsonaro, in fact, sponsored such a proposal. But in June Brazilâs supreme court struck down a law that would have introduced paper receipts for 5% of ballot boxes. It said the measure would be too cumbersome and expensive to use on a large scale.
The TSE has other safeguards. The software is encrypted, machines are sealed until election day and political parties may send observers to tests of machines selected at random the day before. But no electronic system is foolproof, warns Diego Aranha, a computer scientist.
Mr Bolsonaro is not the only candidate whose backers are pre-emptively crying foul. The left-wing Workersâ Party (PT) alleges, groundlessly, that the TSE showed bias by disqualifying its first presidential candidate, Luiz In Ã¡cio Lula da Silva, a former president (because he is serving a jail sentence for corruption). Now the TSE has cancelled the registrations of 3.4m people who failed to meet a deadline in May to register their fingerprints, a new safeguard that has been introduced in some cities. Nearly half the disqualified voters are in the north-east, a poor region where Lulaâs successor as the PT candidate, Fernando Haddad, is ahead. Some of these no doubt have died or moved. There is no evidence that the TSE is trying to suppress the vote for Mr Haddad. But, in this case, some voters may have been disqualified unfairly, merely because they did not know about the new requirement.
Paranoia, though, is unfounded. Allegations of fraud and bias create a âdangerous narrativeâ that âundermines confidenceâ in the electoral system, says Felipe Seligman of Jota, a website that reports on the judiciary. In fact, electronic voting has made Brazilâs elections more reliable, not less.So urce: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil