BRASÍLIA – Defense Minister Paulo Sérgio Nogueira sent the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) a report on the inspection of the voting process and asks that an urgent technical investigation be carried out into possible security risks of the ballot boxes. The document has 22 pages and talks about an alleged risk that a “malicious code” could interfere with the functioning of the voting machines.
In a letter in which he forwards the report, the minister claims that during the inspection of the military, a situation that “may constitute a relevant risk to the security of the process” was observed. “From the functionality tests, carried out through the Integrity Test and the Pilot Project with Biometrics, it is not possible to say that the electronic voting system is free from the influence of any malicious code that could alter its functioning”, says Nogueira .
Nogueira suggests that a commission of technicians from institutions of society be created to investigate the functioning of the polls. This work, however, is already done during the election preparation process, with the possibility of inspection institutions, such as the Defense itself, to analyze the ballot box and also the programs that make it work.
After informing that it would take up to 30 days to complete its inspection of the electoral process, the Ministry of Defense announced two days ago that it would deliver the report this Wednesday. The shortened deadline met pressure from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has switched the spotlight behind the scenes since he lost the dispute to PT Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on the last Sunday of October. In the few statements he has made since then, the president insinuates that the military’s dossier can change the game. “We will soon have the consequences of what is happening,” he said last Monday7.
Even before the release of the Defense report, the president-elect came out in defense of the country’s electronic voting process. Lula said that the electronic voting machine is a “conquest of the Brazilian people”. The PT gave his first press conference in Brasília at the beginning of the night, after a meeting at the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).
“The electronic voting machine is an achievement of the Brazilian people. I think that many countries in the world envy Brazil for the smoothness of the process,” he said. The president-elect cited the election in the United States, where, according to him, “they are still counting votes on paper” to know the results of the elections.
On Tuesday, the 8th, the president of the PL, Valdemar Costa Neto, said that the legend would not contest the election result, but that Bolsonaro could do so if he has “something real in his hand”. Vice-President-elect Geraldo Alckmin (PSB) said that the Ministry of Defense report is a matter for the Judiciary, not the transitional government. “I don’t have any information about this report. Now, who takes care of it is the Judiciary, which has a specialized Justice for this, which is the Electoral Justice”, said the deputy.
Defense Minister General Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira reiterated several times that the role of the Armed Forces was to help improve the voting process. In an official statement on October 18, he said he acted in light of TSE Resolution 23,673/21, inspecting the electronic system at the invitation of the court itself and not dedicating himself to an audit itself.
On July 14 of this year, when he went to the Senate, the minister projected a presentation on a screen with the title “Collaboration of the Armed Forces for the Improvement of Security and Transparency of the Brazilian Electoral Process”. That day, Nogueira made a history of the questions and suggestions that had been sent to the TSE by the military.
In the end, he summarized the ministry’s request in three items: carrying out a security test on the 2020 model of the electronic voting machine; ballot box testing on polling day, with voter fingerprinting, and more effective party auditing.
The participation of the Ministry of Defense in this year’s elections was the subject of constant clashes with the different ministers who have passed the Presidency of the TSE. In August of last year, the military were invited by the then president of the Electoral Court, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, to join the Commission for Transparency in Elections. At the time, the holder of the portfolio was still General Walter Braga Netto, who ran for vice president on Bolsonaro’s ticket this year.
Braga Netto indicated General Heber Garcia Portella, who began to reproduce the government’s anti-voting speech at meetings held by the court, even demanding that ministers point out “the consequences for the electoral process, if any irregularity is identified” in the elections.
Earlier this year, when Barroso handed over the command of the TSE to Minister Edson Fachin, Defense went through a period of escalating tension with the Electoral Justice. as showed the Estadão, the military sent to the court more than 88 questions and suggestions for improvements to the electronic voting system. The documents also reproduced part of Bolsonaro’s attacks on electronic voting machines, with questions even about the existence of USB ports on the devices. Faced with the onslaught of the Armed Forces, Fachin went so far as to say that “those who take care of the elections are unarmed forces”.
The crisis between the two institutions only cooled down with the arrival of Alexandre de Moraes to the command of the highest instance of the Electoral Justice. When he assumed the presidency of the TSE in August of this year, Moraes agreed to respond to part of the military’s requests, such as carrying out the test of ballot boxes using voters’ fingerprints to unlock the operation.
The 2020 model urn was submitted for inspection by experts from federal universities; the pilot test with voter participation was carried out in polling stations of the two voting rounds and the parties were able to carry out the audit, respecting the electoral rules.
Other institutions also supervised this year’s elections and attested to the fairness of the electoral process, such as the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) and the Federal Audit Court (TCU).