ELECTIONS 2022: ARE THE ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES TRUSTABLE?

Fernanda Rebelo Pinheiro

I am 17 years old and for the first time I will be participating in the electoral process in Brazil that will take place on October 2nd, 2022. Voting is mandatory for people aged between 18 and 70 and optional for teenagers between 16 and 17 years old, people older than 70 years old, and illiterates. The President of the Republic, Governors, Senators, Federal Deputies, and State Deputies will be elected democratically, whereas the Mayor and Councilors will be elected in only two years. For the job positions of President of the Republic, Governors, and Senators, the electoral process obeys the majoritarian system, that is, the candidates most voted for will be elected (the President and Governors need to achieve half of the validated votes +1 to be elected in the 1st round of voting). Parallelly, there is a proportional system of election for the Federal Deputies and State Deputies where the positions are distributed according to the votes received by each political party utilizing a specific electoral calculation.

Today in Brazil there are more than 156 million voters, distributed in 5.570 cities, registered in the Superior Electoral Court (apart from residents in foreign countries). There are 496,512 electoral sections, locations where people will vote on election day where electronic voting machines will be installed and poll workers facilitate voting. It is worth pointing out that almost half a million electronic voting machines will be used, without counting the ones on stand-by just in case the others break down. In the last few years, voters encountered numerous problems with the machines, necessitating the replacement of many machines during voting hours.


The electronic voting machine is equipped with a keyboard similar to a telephone keyboard. When voters enter a designated sequence of numbers, the candidate’s name, photograph, and political party show up on the screen. Then, the elector can confirm their vote or correct it in case an error has been committed during the typing.


The first use of a voting machine in Brazil was in the municipal elections of 1996, when some cities used the "Electronic Voting Collector." Later, it was implemented in all Brazilian cities for the 2000 Elections. The electronic vote was a big advance in the electoral Brazilian process, whose objective was to eliminate the possibility of fraud during the electoral process.

However, with each election, the trustworthiness of the electronic voting machine used in the country is questioned, given that many specialists in technological information, Brazilians, and foreigners affirm that in spite of updated system control barriers, the security equipment and electoral software’s integrity is still vulnerable. Thus, electronic voting machines are ultimately not completely safe and may suffer data alterations by cyber attacks.


In view of the belief and possibility of digital insecurity in the Brazilian electoral process, in 2019, a Proposal for a Constitutional Amendment was elaborated concerning the vote print coupled with the electronic voting machine. The receipt of the vote was to be deposited in a compartment, for a possible recount of votes, aiming for more transparency in the electoral process. Nevertheless, the referred proposal was not approved by a commission of the Federal Chamber of Deputies. Therefore, we will have to wait for the measures to be adopted until the day to establish and maintain the transparency and lawfulness deserved by the Brazilian people.


Sources: