It is not enough to approve the printed vote before the 2022 election. Unless 100% of the ballot boxes are equipped with printers in the next election, there will continue to be mistrust about the results.
This is the message from Congresswoman Bia Kicis (PSL-DF), author of the PEC (proposed amendment to the Constitution) of the printed vote, which is under analysis by a special committee in the Chamber.
The deputy rejects a gradual implementation of printers, such as the test carried out by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) in 2002, with 6% of the ballot boxes.
In practice, this is not about the vote directly printed, but about the printing on paper of a proof of the vote cast in the electronic ballot box, which would normally be kept in elections.
“I, as the author of the PEC, insist on 100% printers in the ballot boxes; I repudiate a gradual implementation, which will legitimize a possible fraud”, says Kicis.
If there is only one pilot project, with the transformation of part of the ballot boxes, “we will continue to say that it is illegitimate, yes, we will continue to be suspicious”, says the deputy.
However, a number of experts, many of them in favor of the electronic voting record, say it is impractical to change the entire system in time for the 2022 election.
For Diego Aranha, associate professor of systems security at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, it is “just impossible” to get the system implemented for 100% of voters.
“It would be possible to do a pilot project, at most”, says Aranha, who is one of the main references on the subject and was a researcher in the public safety tests carried out by the TSE in 2012 and 2017.
The researcher found vulnerabilities in the system and is a frequent critic of electronic voting machines without physical proof. Spider uses India as an example. The Indian government used an electronic voting machine similar to the Brazilian one and began to develop a system with a printer in 2011.
In 2012 and 2013, manufacturers tested prototypes, and in 2014 the system debuted in a pilot project in elections, in just 8 of 543 constituencies. Thereafter, the system was gradually implemented and only reached 100% of polling stations in 2019.
“I very much doubt that any changes can be made to 100% of the vote by next year. Even if we went for a proposal that is simpler to implement, such as the optical forms in the United States, it would be necessary to train voters, election officials, and the entire Electoral Justice team”, says Paulo Matias, professor at the Department of Computing at the Federal University of São Carlos .
Matias defends the implementation of printed voting to increase voting security, but not “hurriedly”. “Just look at the transition from the conventional paper ballot to the electronic ballot, which was tested in more than one election before being implemented nationwide.”
The complete transition from a paper ballot to an electronic ballot in Brazil took place over three elections, from 1996 to 2000.
The PEC of the printed vote needs to be approved in two rounds in the Chamber and in the Senate, by three-fifths of the deputies and senators, until the beginning of October to be valid in the 2022 election. Legislation that changes electoral rules needs to be approved with at least one year prior to the election to take effect.
If approved, and assuming that it will not be questioned in the STF, only then could the TSE carry out a tender for the purchase of the printers.
The court does not comment on deadlines and only states that it will comply with the law. He emphasizes that the market needs to be able to meet a demand of this magnitude — there will be 577,125 urns in 2022, 15% of which are contingency and reserve urns.
After the bidding, there would be a period of software development, production and testing of equipment, transportation and training. “The implementation of the printed vote involves a lengthy procedure, although it is not possible, at this moment, to estimate its duration”, says the TSE.
The studies for the implementation of the printed vote in the 2018 elections, before the STF declared the change unconstitutional, provided for a gradual implementation, with an initial acquisition of 30,000 printing modules.
Considering, on average, the time of a tender of this complexity, technicians estimate that the manufacturing of the printing modules would start in the first half of 2022. And there would be an obstacle — there is a shortage in the world supply of electronic components and microchips.
Even so, Congresswoman Bia Kicis and other supporters of the proposal believe that there is enough time for the change to be made and that the TSE is grudgingly.
“We already went through this in 2002. In two months, the court was able to bid and place the printers. It makes no difference whether you are going to put 400,000 urns or 40,000 urns. The bidding is the same. It shows that there are companies capable of delivering these printers”, says Kicis.
“The urns already exist and are able to receive an attached printer. We don’t want to change the ballot boxes now, we just want to put a little printer on the side. And you can do it calmly. All the experts I talk to say there’s time.”
According to her, the TSE has “inexplicably” resisted the printed vote since 2014. “Of course there is time: in India, where there are four times more voters than in Brazil, in one year they implemented the printed vote… In one year.” The implementation of the printed vote in India took six years.
The deputy thinks that changing the system gradually will make it even more vulnerable to fraud.
“If 10% of the ballot boxes print the vote and 90% don’t, then potential intruders will rig the unprinted ballot boxes where they can’t be detected — it’s like the thief who doesn’t rob the house where he knows there are guns,” says Kicis.
In addition, he says, they would use the audit of printed receipts to legitimize the entire system. “It’s going to give them the speech that everyone we’ve tested worked and this proves that the system is integrity and inviolable, and we know it isn’t. It will leave us at the mercy of fraud.”
Kicis does not believe that the measure can be considered unconstitutional in the Supreme Court. The National Congress has already approved the creation of the printed vote, in electoral reforms in 2009 and 2015. Both times, the change, made by bill of law, was blocked by the STF.
“This time it will be more difficult. Back then, the population was not yet connected to this issue. Today, the people are going to the streets to ask for an auditable vote, the population is very suspicious”, he says.
“And we have an attorney general of the Republic [Augusto Aras] who is in favor of the printed vote, unlike Raquel Dodge [ex-PGR], which filed a direct action for the unconstitutionality of the vote printed in the Supreme Court.”
The deputy electoral general attorney, Renato Brill de Góes, told the leaf that the proposal for a printed vote is “conspiracy theory allied to denial of technology”, and that the purpose of the PEC is “to manipulate and inflate certain segments of the population and create a state of emotional or passionate mental confusion about the reality of the facts”.
The deputy does not back down. “But Attorney General Aras is in favor. I believe that this prosecutor who is totally against it does not know the system”, says Kicis.
Government and opposition politicians have been discussing the advisability of approving the PEC of the printed vote to deflate the speech of President Jair Bolsonaro (no party), who has been claiming that there will be fraud in 2022 if the current system is maintained.
“If the biggest bastard in Brazil was taken out of jail and if that bastard was given the right to run, what it seems to me is that if we don’t have an auditable vote, this bastard, by fraud, will win next year’s elections,” said Bolsonaro on May 15, referring to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT).
In January, shortly after the invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who questioned the election result, Bolsonaro said: “If we don’t have the vote printed at 22, one way to audit the vote, we will have problem worse than the United States”.
The president of the special commission of the PEC, deputy Paulo Eduardo Martins (PSC-PR), rejects the thesis that the pocket members are using the theme of the printed vote to riot and cause electoral instability.
“To riot is to go to the election without the printed vote. There is a question from society, we need to approve this PEC as soon as possible”, he says.
Datafolha’s December 2020 survey showed that 73% of Brazilians are in favor of the continued use of electronic voting machines and 23% advocate for a return to paper voting. Of the total respondents, 69% said they trust a lot or a little in the computerized ballot box system.
Kicis also sells print vote approval as the best way to avoid questioning the 2022 election.
“President Bolsonaro has already said: if I lose with a printed vote, I lost, I accept. He is giving the recipe. It was for the whole left to want the vote printed. Anyone who thinks Lula will win has more than wanting the printed vote, because he would legitimize this victory”, he says. “Neither Bolsonaro nor Bolsonaro voters should contest.”
Even if the TSE can’t jet-align hundreds of thousands of ballot boxes across the country? “If they just do a print sampling, we’re going to make the system worse. And they won’t shut me up, I’ll keep saying until the end that I’m going to be suspicious, and it’s not just me, there are thousands of people who are suspicious.”
Ana Cláudia Santano, general coordinator of Transparência Eleitoral Brasil, does not believe that the approval of the PEC at this time will pacify tempers.
“I’m a pessimist. I think we will have questions about the legitimacy of the election whether or not the proof of paper in the election will take place, because this has entered into the mentality of certain groups”, says Santano, who is a professor of electoral law at UniBrasil.
The professor says she sees space for improving the electronic voting machine and adopting paper registration, but she thinks that this should not be done “by flooding”.
SOME URN SECURITY DEVICES
- Encryption Usage
- Code certifies that the urn system is the one generated by the TSE and has not been modified
- Only the TSE system can work in the ballot box
- The urn system is available for public consultation for six months
- In Public Security Tests, experts try to hack the equipment and present the flaws found for the TSE to correct
- Ballot boxes selected by lot are removed from the polling place and participate in a simulation of the vote, for validation purposes
- Biometric system helps confirm voter identity
- “Log”, a kind of black box, records everything that happens in the urn
- Printing of the zeroth and ballot paper
- Process is not connected to the internet
- Seals are placed on the urn to prevent external devices (such as a USB stick) from being inserted