São Paulo – Scientists, technicians and computer engineers involved in developing Brazil’s electronic voting machines are deeply alarmed by attacks and attempts to rule out the country’s electoral system, which is seen as a model for the world in terms of efficiency and reliability, despite being the subject of the wrath of flat Earth advocates. In addition to daily speeches by Jair Bolsonaro himself, his first-ranking aides help with the mission of attacking the regime, a tactic copied from the American Donald Trump. On Wednesday (25), it was the turn of Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Paolo Alvim.
In a House hearing, he said, “The hardware has many safeguards and has evolved. I can’t say the same about the software.” “The computer is a stupid machine, it does what the man says,” he added. And although “the problem is not with the ballot box, the problem is with the electronic voting process, which can have human intervention.”
In response to this systematic campaign by the Bolsonaro government against democracy, the National Federation of Federal Public Officials in Space Science and Technology (SindCT) is preparing a book on the history of the creation of electronic voting machines. The working title – which is due to be released in July, in Brasilia – will be Everything you always wanted to know about the Brazilian electronic voting machine. SindCT represents public servants in science and technology positions at the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) and the Department of Space Science and Technology (DCTA), among others.
Fernanda Soares Andrade, SindCT’s press officer and author of the book, recalls that the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) between 1994 and 1996, Carlos Veloso, was responsible for the idea of an electronic voting system within the court. He is the author of the book’s introduction. The journalist highlights that the Covid-19 pandemic was an “obstacle” in the work: at that time, the wave of government attacks on electronic voting machines began to become systematic. Fernanda heard from Judge Gilmar Mendes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), Deputy Arlindo Chinaglia (PT-SP), former Education Minister Fernando Haddad (PT) and President at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
The idea of a “voting machine”
The initial idea of the electronic voting machine was to integrate the system at the national level, specifically to eliminate fraud in the electoral process as much as possible. Fernanda asserts: “They wanted to create a ‘voting machine’, which was foreseen in the electoral law of 1932. A committee of notables was then set up to set standards for what the machine should do: ‘It must be accessible to all and easy to transport, because it will face rain. , dirt roads, access by plane, canoe, and places without electric power.”
And most importantly, everyone, including the illiterate, had to be able to use it. And so he concluded that even those who did not know how to read and write knew the numbers, because everyone used the telephone, paid the bills at the bakery, received the change, etc. “Everyone understands,” emphasizes the author. “Because there were payphones everywhere and everyone knew the keypad,” Fernanda says. “So the vote moved from my name to a number.”
But first, it was necessary to persuade the deputies and senators. “Politicians have a brand. My name is Sarny, my name is ACM. How am I going to become a number?” Parliamentarians are convinced, the telephone switchboard is adopted.
Another commission was tasked with designing the same “voting machine”. She was joined by the four retainers from Inpe, DCTA, and representatives of the Navy, Army, and Ministries. “The idea was to integrate all government sectors so that they work together.”
In the process of developing the project, the purchase of the encryption system (Secure Communication System) from the United States was considered. But the conclusion was that, legally, the country providing the system could access it, leaving the Brazilian elections vulnerable to an external “attack.” “Cryptography was only developed in Brazil for ballot box making, and today it is done within TSE,” Fernanda says.
In 1996, less than two years after the start of the process, the “voting machine” electoral system was opened in cities of over 200,000 inhabitants. Four years later, electronic voting machines were in use across the country, in the first fully computerized Brazilian elections.
On May 13, 2022, TSE completed the “Confirmation Test” of this year’s General Test of Electronic Voting System (TPS) Security. Public scrutiny is open and transparent and its goal is to check sophistication to enhance security.
the book Everything you always wanted to know about the Brazilian electronic voting machine It will have a copy of 1,000 copies distributed to universities, politicians, and political parties, but will also be shown online for free. The intention is to launch it, in July, in the Chamber of Deputies (if the Chamber allows a place), and at an event at the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC).