Brazil carries out runoff leveraged by e-voting

brazil biometric

Brazil uses biometric machines to verify the identity of 16.4% of voters.

Nearly three weeks ago, Brazil went to the polling stations and not only consolidated its democratic vocation by having 80.6% of its 141.8 million voters participate in its general elections, but also strengthened its electronic voting system by accomplishing a new electoral event where technology served successfully both the political scheme and the citizens.

Although it has been mentioned before that the country has an electoral platform managed by the executive branch (voting machine manufacturing and running the tally and aggregation system), it is important to remember that since 1996, the country has been working on its own system, which is fully automated nowadays—except for biometric identification, which is applied to only 16.4% of the voting registry (23.3 million voters).

Driven by this reality, the country will vote once again on the October 26th runoff. Brazil applied a plan to reiforce the biometric system for this event in order to improve the level of effectiveness of the voter identity verification technology, which captures voters’ fingerprints.

The High Electoral Court expects to rise effectiveness from 91.5% reached by biometric ballot boxes during the first round, to more than 95% during the run-off. Giuseppe Janino, the TSE’s IT Secretary, informed that more than one thousand machines were repaired and the training plan was strengthened in order to alleviate the delays that affected four states out of the nation’s 27.

While offering better guarantees in biometry, TSE ensures that Brazilian e-voting is prepared to fulfill the demanding event. Brazil’s e-voting is based on a machine having small screen and a numeric keyboard where voters type the numbers assigned to their candidates. Then they verify their vote on a picture appearing onscreen and press the “confirm” button. At the end of the event, several minutes are printed with the results of the election. One of them is stored on a magnetic disk and then transmitted through the secure network of the High Electoral Court. The system is subjected to several audits, requiring electronic signatures from all the actors.

This Sunday, Brazil will use 530,000 e-voting machines. As a side benefit, citizens can download a TSE app for cell phones or tablets to get to know details of the process and access electoral results in real time. Automation has been an ally to this nation, and this runoff will be a new opportunity to confirm the value of technology.

E-voting in Brazil, step by step


At least 23 million Brazilians will use voting machines with fingerprint authentication.

Brazil will be holding general elections this October 5th. During the event, the country will deploy one of the world’s most complex electoral platforms, as 141.8 million voters will choose between 26,131 candidates aspiring to 1,709 posts including president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, and federal, state, and district senators.

Brazil’s electoral process is 100% automated—except for the identification phase, which will be applied to only 16.4% of the registry, that is, 23.3 million voters. Voting, tallying and transmission of the results will be done through electronic means developed by the High Electoral Court. Since 1996, when the first automated experience took place, the country has made considerable progress, and now it has one of the world’s most successful e-voting models.

Since each voter must perform five or six selections, the electoral body activated simulators for voters living in Brazil and abroad, so that everybody is prepared for the elections.

This Sunday, each voter will carry out two steps to exert his or her right to suffrage and complete the voting cycle. The process is completed with two technical stages at the end of the event.

1.- Authentication

Each voter must present his or her ID at the polling station. In case of voting in one of the 25 cities that will provide biometric identification (fingerprint scanning), instead of checking his or her data in an electoral registry, each voter will use a machine with the device that will enable verification of his or her identity.

2.- Voting

The Brazilian machines have a small screen and a number keyboard where each voter must press the number assigned to their preferred candidate. Once selected, the candidate’s picture, name, and his or her political party’s initials will appear onscreen. This enables verifying the vote. If correct, the voter must press the “confirm” key to execute the vote or the correction button to make changes. If the voter wishes to vote for none of the candidates, he or she can press the “blank” key. There is also an option to make a void vote by pushing random numbers and pressing the “confirm” key. This process must be repeated for each post in contest. After all the votes have been registered, the ballot box will beep and the word END will appear onscreen.

3.- Tallying

Votes emitted by the electors are encrypted with a digital signature and stored in two memory flash cards and a magnetic disk. At the end of the process, selections are tallied and results are printed on several minutes. The magnetic disk is promptly delivered to the High Electoral Court.

4.- Transmission

After the tallying process is finished and the precinct count minutes are printed, the information on the magnetic disk is transmitted through an exclusive secure network to perform totaling of all the votes in the computers of the regional offices and of the High Electoral Court. Brazilian legislation allows the electoral body to release results in real-time on its website.

Ecuador looks to the future, hand in hand with electoral technology


Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used machines provided by Smartmatic. Photo: La República

Ecuador is committed to automating its electoral system by 2017. The goal looks attainable more than two years away from the deadline, as the country has been preparing to migrate from manual to electronic voting, keeping in mind all the steps that guarantee the successful adoption of electoral technology.

Last February, the country experienced a binding pilot test that cleared all doubts about the efficacy of vote automation. The provinces of Azuay and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas tested two kinds of electoral technology, which not only enabled nearly one million Ecuadorians to vote securely—according to the electoral body— but also helped to determine the financial and logistic requirements of extending the use of technology throughout the nation.

For example, in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the National Electoral Council (CNE) certified the ease of use of the devices provided by Smartmatic, in which voters’ interaction with the touchscreen machines was simple and quick. The electoral body highlighted the optimal performance in the capture, counting, totaling, and transmission of votes, which made it possible to publish results with 99% of the tally just one hour after the polling stations closed. Besides, audits were performed after the election, which matched the automated results with manual counts of vote receipts emitted by the machines.

In Azuay, where machines provided by Magic Software Argentina (MSA) were used, the process was also positive in spite of the suspension of elections at the Ponce Enríquez district. Rather than e-voting, this system is based on electronic tallying, since the machines do not register votes but a chip on each ballot stores each vote in order to be counted later. The obstacles faced by this mode were eventually overcome and the process continued normally, which led the authorities to highlight the strength of the technology to solve contingencies.

After this experience, the National Electoral Council announced that it would follow the recommendations from the Electoral Mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE), inviting the country to carry out a compared evaluation of the automated practices employed and define the technological solution to be applied, considering the recommended criteria regarding blank votes, single screens, voting booth upgrades, among others.

Trust in every electoral system is based on it being capable of registering votes faithfully, preserving their secrecy—both in terms of selected options and voter identity—, arrive at tally results that respect the voters’ selections, guarantee that results cannot be altered, enable the auditability of the processes, and make the voting method easy for everyone. Compliance with these demands makes an electoral process efficient and reliable, and that is Ecuador’s bet for the future.