São Paulo – The computer scientists, technicians and engineers who participated in the development of the Brazilian electronic voting machines are deeply irritated by the attacks and attempts to disqualify the country’s electoral system, considered an example for the world in terms of efficiency and reliability, despite being the object of the ire of flat-earth advocates. Besides the daily speeches of Jair Bolsonaro himself, his first-level aides help him in the task of attacking the system, a tactic copied from the American Donald Trump. On Wednesday (25), it was the turn of the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Paulo Alvim.
During a hearing in the Chamber of Deputies, he declared that “the material has many guarantees and has evolved. I can’t say the same for the software. He added that “the computer is a stupid machine, it does what man says”. And even if “the problem is not the ballot box, the problem is the electronic voting process, which can have human interference”.
In response to this systematic campaign by the Bolsonaro government against democracy, the National Union of Federal Civil Servants in the Scientific and Technological Field of the Aerospace Sector (SindCT) is preparing a book on the history of the creation of electronic voting machines. . The title of the work – which should be released in July, in Brasilia – will be Everything you always wanted to know about the Brazilian electronic voting machine. SindCT represents civil servants in scientific and technological careers at the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) and the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA), among others.
Fernanda Soares Andrade, SindCT press officer and author of the book, recalls that the president of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) between 1994 and 1996, Carlos Velloso, was at the origin of the idea of an electronic voting system in within the court. He is the author of the preface to the book. The journalist points out that the covid-19 pandemic was the “hook” for the work: at the time, the wave of government attacks on electronic voting machines was beginning to become systematic. Fernanda heard from Justice Gilmar Mendes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), Deputy Arlindo Chinaglia (PT-SP), former Minister of Education Fernando Haddad (PT) and then President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
The idea of the “voting machine”
The initial idea of the electronic voting machine was to integrate the system at the national level, and precisely to eliminate fraud as much as possible in the electoral process. “They wanted to create a ‘voting machine’, which was provided for in the electoral code of 1932”, underlines Fernanda. A commission of notables is then created to establish parameters on what the machine will have to do: “it should be accessible to all and easy to transport, since it would face the rain, the dirt roads, would arrive by plane , by canoe, in places without electrical power”.
And above all, everyone, including the illiterate, should be able to use it. Thus, it was concluded that even those who could not read or write knew the numbers, since everyone used the telephone, paid the bills at the bakery and received change, etc. “Everyone has understood”, underlines the author. “Because there were phone booths everywhere and everyone knew the keyboard,” says Fernanda. “So the vote went from nominative to numerical.”
But before, it was necessary to convince deputies and senators. “Politicians had a mark. “My name is Sarney, my name is ACM. How will I become a number?’ “. Parliamentarians convinced, a telephone keypad was adopted.
Another commission was tasked with designing the “voting machine” itself. He was joined by the four servants of the Inpe and the DCTA, representatives of the Navy, the Army and the ministries. “The idea was to integrate all government sectors so that it works together.”
In the process of developing the project, it was considered to purchase the encryption system (secure communication system) from the United States. But the conclusion was that, legally, the country providing the system could access it, which would make the Brazilian election vulnerable to foreign “attacks”. “So cryptography was developed in Brazil just to make ballot boxes and today it’s done within the TSE,” says Fernanda.
In 1996, less than two years after the start of the process, the electoral system with the “voting machine” was inaugurated in cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants. Four years later, electronic voting machines were rolled out across the country, in Brazil’s first fully computerized election.
On May 13, 2022, the TSE completed the “confirmation test” of this year’s electronic voting system (TPS) public security test. The public audit is open and transparent and the objective is to verify the evolution to strengthen security.
The book Everything you always wanted to know about the Brazilian electronic voting machine It will have an edition of 1,000 copies to distribute to universities, politicians and political parties, but it will also be offered free on the Internet. The intention is to launch it, in July, at the Chamber of Deputies (if the Chamber makes space available) and at an event at the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC).
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