The security of the Brazilian electoral process
Brazilian elections are renowned globally for being secure. Despite this, since the 2018 elections, the reliability of electronic voting machines has been viewed with suspicion. Patricia Oliveira de Oliveira – GO Regional Auditing Manager, Russell Bedford, Brazil discusses audit transparency over implementing a secure system
Brazilian elections have used electronic voting machines since 1996. The first election used 70,000 machines to count more than 32 million votes. The 2020 election became the first fully computerised election with electronic voting machines used throughout Brazil. The 2022 general election used 577,000 electronic voting machines.
Cutting-edge information security
The technology that goes into making electronic voting machines is at the forefront of information security and is developed for and used exclusively by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). The security processes rely on source codes, encryption, and digital signatures to ensure unbreakable data security. Further, as electronic voting machines do not connect to the Internet or any other networks, hackers cannot attack them. If unauthorised access were to happen somehow, all data is inviolable and impossible to manipulate or modify.
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The technology used in elections undergoes constant auditing, covering more than thirty layers of security checks. Added to this, the public has tested the system and IT universities conduct studies constantly. The audit, or integrity test as it’s known, is performed by an external independent auditor and has been every year for the last twenty years. On election day, anyone who wants to can be present at the test.
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Preparing for election day
On a predetermined date, decided by the Superior Electoral Court, political parties submit the names and poll identity numbers for all participating election candidates. This information appears in the polls and candidates are now able to receive votes.
On the eve of the election, the electoral voting machines to undergo integrity testing are drawn at random by electoral supervisors from the TSE in the presence of the independent external auditor. Everything is recorded and broadcast live; the proceedings are also open to anyone who wants to attend in person. Once the selection process is complete, everything is placed in the electoral zones ready for the integrity test.
On election day, the integrity test simulates an actual vote under the exact conditions that will happen in the assigned electoral zones but with all votes recorded in parallel on paper. Again, the process is recorded, broadcast live, and open to anyone who wants to attend. At the end of the simulation, the paper votes are compared with the ballot report card, which details the simulated votes cast for each candidate. As these are simulated votes they have no bearing on actual results.
On election day, both volunteer and summoned citizens work as mesários, responsible for receiving and guiding voters. All mesários undergo training from the TRE that exist in every state. Voting locations are divided into zones and sections with each section having a designated number of voters. These sections do not change.
Before voting starts there are steps in the voting process that ensure transparency. First, the zerézima is issued; this is the printed report of the electronic voting machine, showing the votes given to each candidate. At this stage, as no votes have been cast the count will show zero for all candidates; this is important as it proves no votes have been allocated before voting starts.
During the vote, the mesário welcomes the voters who identify themselves with their voter ID and officially recognised photo ID. After successfully passing identity checks the vote is cast and the voter receives a voting receipt.
When the election closes at the specified time, the mesário issues the ballot report card, which details the votes cast for each candidate. The zerézima and the ballot report card are public documents that any citizen has access to on election day and are later published on the TSE website.
Track record of secure elections
The pre-election audits and election-day identity checks ensure that every vote is cast legitimately and counted accurately, ensuring no manipulation or transferring of votes. It is important and reassuring to note that twenty years of auditing have detected no voting irregularities, proving the security, integrity, and reliability of the Brazilian electoral process.
Patricia Oliveira de Oliveira – GO
Regional Auditing Manager, Russell Bedford, Brazil
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