Brazil extends the use of Biometrics to protect votes











After 11 years of having incorporated Biometrics technology into their election systems –fingerprint scanning for identity verification– Brazil is preparing to close the cycle, expanding its use. The plan is to advance the plan seeking that the majority of the 148 million registered voters in this nation have access to the devices that ensure the identification of voters.

Better known as biometric identification, this tool has gone from a widespread use in the corporate and industrial world –for instance, for personnel Access Control– to enjoy adoption by electoral bodies. The measure of expanding Biometrics coverage to elections is turning Brazil into one of its greatest exponents.

In Brazil, the electoral platform is in charge of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), meaning that voting machine manufacture, and management of the voting and tallying system enabling today’s 100% automated voting, are the responsibility of this agency. This includes electoral equipment featuring numeric keyboards that capture fingerprints prior to casting votes.

According to TSE sources, the decision to employ Biometrics stemmed from the necessity to eliminate wrongdoings associated just to double voting and identity impersonation, which are persistent irregularities in Latin America.

In order to face such challenge, in 2008 fingerprint gathering machines were put in use prior to casting votes, and gradually TSE increased their use. For example, while in 2014 Biometrics covered just 16.4% of the registry or 23.3 million voters, in 2018 it covered 50% of the electorate, which then amounted to 147.2 million people.

In order to further expand these figures, in several regions the electoral authority has ruled the mandatory taking fingerprints at the regional offices. An example is Sao Paulo, where since February voters are urged to have their fingerprints taken, a step that enables them to vote in the upcoming 2020 elections.

As may be recalled, the Brazilian electronic voting model mandatorily requires each voter to produce his/her ID document on arrival at the voting station, but in the case the voting takes place in a city already having biometric identity checking, a voter may proceed directly to a device that checks his/her identity, instead of searching names in old-style voter listings.

In this fashion, illegally voting impersonating another voter or voting several times, something that has muddled results in many countries and cramped citizen’s trust in the system, is being successfully defeated in Brazil, by allowing biometric technology to greatly advance the electoral endeavor. By using technology, it is obvious that protecting the identity of voters, their votes are getting more secure.

Mexico resumes its overseas automated voting project

elecciones Mexico

Recent migratory data from a research effort by Mexico’s National Population Council (Consejo Nacional de Población) reveal there are close to 11,700,000 Mexicans living abroad –97% of which reside in the United States– and a sizable chunk of that population will benefit from an eventual move to automate the voting in foreign countries, which is being pondered by the Mexican state.

Expatriate voting often brings heated debates, not only because several nations’ legislations thwart political rights like this one, but also because the logistics needed to support the access implied have in many cases made voting from abroad unfeasible.

Mexico is one of the countries in the region that have shown ambivalent stances about modernizing elections. While at the federal scale the voting system has been studied intensively, the country has forsaken any decisions aimed at advancing toward this goal. In parallel, a relative interest has been kept up about modernizing the vote from abroad.

This latter alternative has now returned to public attention, since the National Electoral Institute (INE) has announced its intention to work toward overturning the way expatriates exert their suffrage.

In 2017 it was informed that the vote of nationals residing abroad was going to be automated for the 2018 elections, but later on the decision was reverted due to insufficient time and budget.

Nevertheless, there is information that among the various voting models available, the electoral authority is evaluating Internet Voting as the most convenient option to replace the outdated vote-by-mail used here to by Mexicans living abroad, hence giving way to modern technology.

Enrique Andrade, INE’s Counsel, has stated that a revision of the Mexican electoral model is in order –both the system and the paperwork procedures for residents abroad– in order to augment turnout.

“It is evident that the postal vote has reached its limits, and new methods should be considered, such as electronic voting. However, to that end safeguards and mechanisms to attain transparency and lawfulness must be contemplated”, he said.

With the initiative already in full development, we foresee that the path Mexico must follow in order to implement a modern, effective and transparent election system will not be easy, since first it will be required that the fledging Law gets approved to enable automation, and then to make more flexible the current requirements to allow voters to actually exercise their right to vote. In addition, it will be necessary that the electoral agency be provided with sufficient budget to comply with the possible scope of the ensuing legal mandate.

Faced with the challenge of implementing the necessary changes, it suffices to wait until authorities and politicians reach an agreement to pave the way for Mexico to modernize its electoral system, first of all benefiting the residents abroad.