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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Electoral Justice started its path toward informatization almost thirty years ago when in 1986 an electronic registration of more than 7 million voters took place. In 1994 the results of the general elections were established through a central computer at the Superior Electoral Court (TSE, in the portuguese abbreviation) . Once enlisting voters and establishing the results got informatized, the next step would be to informatize vote itself, so that the whole hardcore of the elections would be completely modernized.

In 1995 the first version of the electronic ballot was developed to be used in the 1996 elections, when a third of the electorate already voted electronically. In the 1998 elections two thirds of the electorate voted in electronic ballots and in the 2000 elections every single vote was electronically captured.

Such electoral digital scenario brings numerous benefits, namely the logistic gains and the speed in which the results can be established and published. Nevertheless, the Electoral Justice maintains its efforts to improve security of the electronic voting system.

At the public security tests TSE welcomes external specialists in order to encourage them to search for vulnerabilities of the vote capturing and result establishing system. The tests became so important that they are now formally part of the Brazilian electoral process according to TSE Resolution n. 23.444/2015.

Through Biometric registration, since 2008, the Electoral Justice aims to reduce duplicate records in voter registry, ensuring that each vote is personal, unique and non-transferable. In the 2016 elections almost 50 million people were able to vote through biometric identification, corresponding roughly to 30% of the Brazilian total electorate.

Despite this, people have some doubts about the electoral system: although we live the longest time of institutional normality, ensured by Federal Constitution of 1988 , part of the people expresses distrust in our institutions. Thus, beyond the concern about improving the system, maybe the Electoral Justice's highest challenge nowadays is to ensure credibility, namely to show that e-Elections are trustworthy, in other words, that it provides a reliable voting system.

Seeking to confer reliability to the ballots, Law n. 13.165 of 2015 were enacted, including in the Elections Act (Law n. 9.504 of 1997) the requirement of printed votes along with the electronic voting process. In general terms, from the 2018 elections on, a gradual implementation of built-in printers on electronic ballot machines will take place, so that the vote can be stored in both electronic and physical forms. In Article 59-A the above-mentioned Act establishes that "in the electronic voting process the ballot will print each vote, which will be stored automatically and with no manual contact to the voter in a previously sealed slot".

To get an idea of the distrust level of the population on the electronic voting system and of the popular support for the printed vote, here is a survey held by the Federal Senate in 2015 when the mentioned law was being considered in Congress


However, despite the popular support and the above-mentioned law, the issue of the printed vote remains uncertain. In February, the Federal Public Prosecution Office required to the Brazilian Supreme Court to declare the unconstitutionality of the aforementioned article 59-A , under the argument that it would threaten vote secrecy and therefore it was a democratic setback. In this lawsuit (ADI 5889), providing information to the Brazilian Supreme Court, TSE (Electoral Court) argued that the printed vote would be a setback on the result establishing process. Furthermore, the Electoral Justice carried out an expenditure projection of 2,5 Million reais within the next ten years to put printed vote systems gradually in place.

Finally, despite the mentioned "analogic relapse", the Brazilian electoral system became a reference of technology application and there is no evidence of an upcoming change of course. Thus, Brazil is building its recent democratic history with the eyes on a increasingly more digital horizon.

 Fábio L. Quintas,
Adisson Leal