BRAZIL’s Road Map to Electronic Voting – Lessons for Pakistan

pic Originally published in The News Tribe on  Mar 27th, 2013

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Computerization and automation of Brazil‘s Electoral system provides many interesting lessons for Pakistan. The benefits of electronic voting were identified by Brazil as early as in 1986. Over the years this South American country has evolved a highly successful model of implementing electronic voting at the level of municipal as well as general elections.

The Brazilian electronic voting system has proved that it is reliable, transparent and fast. In Brazil the Superior Electoral Court is responsible for the conduct of elections. According to a survey of 2009 it was regarded as one of the most trustworthy institution of the country. Few of the important milestones achieved by Brazil during transformation of electoral process in last two decades are as following:-

Mile stone # 1 (1986) – Voter’s Electronic Registration
The voters’ registration is one of the very basic requirements of any electoral process. The manual or physical registration of voters is not only time consuming but it is more prone to fake entries leading to bogus votes. The Brazilian Superior Electoral Court in 1986 identified this important area and established a single national registration system by replacing the older system of voter’s certificate. It soon became one of the largest electronic registries of voters.

Mile stone # 2 (1994) – Secure Data Transmission Network
For any electronic voting system to function in an efficient and transparent manner a secure and reliable data transmission network needs to be in place. By 1994 General Election, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil created a data transmission network that enabled electronic communication of information among the responsible agencies. Initially the network was utilized for the verification and release of election results. In practice, votes casted in ballot boxes were verified and transmitted to the Regional Electoral Courts which were then retransmitted to the Superior Electoral Court for tabulation and the release of the results.

Mile stone # 3 (1996) – Introducing Electronic Ballot Boxes
In 1996, Superior Electoral Court constituted a technical group in order to prepare the Electronic Ballot Boxes. The project was completed within five months. For the first time electronic voting was successfully implemented in one third of the Brazilian electorate during the 1996 Municipal Elections.

Mile stone # 4 (1998)- Increased Electronic Voting
During the General Elections of 1998, nearly 75 million or two thirds of all Brazilian voters voted through the electronic ballot boxes.

Mile stone # 5 (2000 )- 100 % Electronic Voting
In the year 2000, Brazilian electronic voting project achieved the important mile stone during the Municipal Elections. In these elections 100% of voters, i.e. About 110,000,000 Brazilians were empowered to cast their vote electronically.

Mile stone # 6 (2004/2005/2006 )- Reliable Electronic Voting
Ø In the first round of the municipal elections of 2004, with an electorate of 119 million people, more than 402 thousand electronic ballot boxes were used.
Ø In the referendum of October 23rd, 2005, 95,375,824 people were able to vote electronically. Nearly 406 thousand voting machines were used, guaranteeing, once more, the agility in the counting and security to the vote.
Ø In the general elections of 2006, the counting in record time confirmed the electronic voting system to be adopted in Brazil.

Mile stone # 7 (2008) – Biometric Voting System
A leap forward was taken in the Municipal Elections of 2008 by introducing a Biometric Voting System in order to enhance the security of the voting system. Voters were identified by their fingerprints, which provided a precise identification of the voters. This significantly reduced the possibility of fraud.

Mile stone # 8 (2009) – Verification of the System
Due to increased public interest in the verification of the electronic voting system, public security tests of the election were conducted in 2009 with investigators coming from accredited national and international organizations. This demonstrated the security and inviolability of the Brazilian electronic voting system. According to a survey in 2008, 97 percent of voters approved of the Electronic Ballot box.

Mile stone # 9 (2010)
In the 2010 general elections, more than one million Brazilians identified themselves and voted through biometrics in more than 60 municipalities. According to a survey, 88% of the voters rated the system as good or excellent quality of work.

Mile stone #10 –Yet to Come
Keeping in view the track record of Brazilian in the field of electronic voting it can be claimed that something better would definitely show up once the General elections are held in 2014.

Conclusion
Few of the observations made by the Brazilians due to their Electronic Voting experience are:

  • Introduction of a major technical change like of electronic ballot boxes was not obstacle to voters.
    Ø Voters were facilitated in terms of small lines and swift process.
    Ø A harmonious s relation among voters, inspectors, and elections workers was observed.
    Ø The absence of military force in the streets, demonstrated the confidence of voters, candidates and parties in the performance of the Electoral Voting system.
    Ø Credibility in the new electronic voting process as a result of the impossibility of frauds.

In order to ensure the transparency and security of the Brazilian electronic voting system the relevant parties and authorities are given an advance access to election software for the purpose of conducting inspections and audits before the election. The software is then introduced, compiled and digitally signed by representatives of the political parties and the authorities. After this the software is secured in the Superior Electoral Court.

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