Computerization of voting in Brazil (original em portuguese)

by: Amilcar Brunazo Filho

I will present a summary of the computerization of voting in Brazil, but before that, it's necessary to explain some characteristics of the organization of the electoral power so that it can be understood, because some things happened that could lead to misunderstanding.

1) In Brazil the vote is MANDATORY and there exists only one agency, the TSE (Tribunal Superior Eletoral = Electoral Superior Court), that exerts the three republican powers of Regulating, Administering and Judging of the Electoral process. This unusual accumulation of powers, results in the anti-democratic centralization of the decisions in the hands of a few and provokes the lack of transparency of the process. Even the electoral laws were written and approved without the civil society being able to, in fact, express any opinion or participate.

2) In 1982, at the peak of the Military Regime of Exception, the first attempt at computerization of the totalling of the votes happened in what became known as the Proconsult Case ( ). The experience was disastrous, with the occurrence of an attempt at fraud by military agents. But the "esprit d'corps" of the Justiça Eleitoral prevailed, and stifled the inquiry -- and until today it denies that it happened, banishing this case from its official history. The computerization of the totalling of votes continued to develop in the following elections.

3) In 1985 the lobby of the TSE in the National Congress obtained the fast approval of Law 7,444/85 that commanded the unification of national Voter Registration, with the use of the computers, and gave to the TSE powers to be able to prescribe the re-registration process. The TSE decided, alone, to eliminate the photo of the voter on the Voter ID Cards, creating an enormous security gap, making possible a simple fraud where any person can vote using someone else's card. This error of Electoral Justice remained for 20 years and only now is starting to be corrected by a new re-registration, to be initiated in November of 2005.

4) In 1995, with renewed lobbying by the TSE of the National Congress a law was passed, written six months earlier by an internal work group of the TSE, resulting in Law 9,100/95, which allowed the use of electronic voting machines, and gave to the TSE the power to regulate their use. The TSE opted to use direct recording electronic (DRE) machines without a paper ballot confirmed by the voter. It also opted for the identification of the voter at the voting machine itself, creating a new security gap for the inviolability of the vote. This machine came to be called the "Urna Eletrônica", the Electronic Ballot box.

5) In 1996, 1/3 of the electorate, approximately 35 million voters, voted in the new DRE's without a paper ballot verified by the voter. In 1998, the electronic ballot boxes were used by 2/3 of the voters and in 2000, by 100%.

6) In 1999, the first project of law appeared in the Federal Senate that compelled that voting machines print the vote for verification by the voter, created the audit requirement of 3% of the ballot boxes which would be selected at random after the election, impeded the identification of the individual voters at the machine where they voted, and compelled the use of open source software for the electronic ballot boxes.

7) The Minister-Judges of the TSE came back to exert a strong lobby in the National Congress and obtained, in only two days of 2001, the approval of seven amendments to the proposal that created Law 10,480/02 which postponed the application of the VVPB (Voter-Verifiable Paper Ballot) until 2004, ordered that the random selection of the ballot boxes to be audited be done BEFORE the elections, allowed the identification of the voter at the voting machine and allowed the TSE to use undisclosed computer programs in the DRE's, whose source-code is not presented to anyone for inspection.

8) The pressure of the TSE in the National Congress against the auditing of the electronic verification continued in 2003 and in less than six months, obtained approval of Law 10,708/03 that revoked the VVPB and the auditing of the electronic verification of the votes, even before they came into effect in 2004. In this new law, the identification of the voters remained at the voting machines, and it strengthened the authorization for use of secret software by the TSE.

This is the brief history of electronic voting in Brazil.


Amilcar Brunazo Filho

translated from portuguese by Marian Beddill, July 2005