Brazil uses electronic ballot boxes and technological solutions to identify voters in political elections. But this technology has been both praised and criticized. Pictured: Brazil's newly elected president - the left-wing leader Lula da Silva. Photo: Alexander Bonilla. Source: Flickr.

Development magazine explains

Rare Brazilian ballot boxes both praised and criticized

Brazil is one of the few countries in the world that uses electronic ballot boxes and technology to identify the voter. The electoral authority in the country considers the system to be secure, while critics say it is vulnerable to hackers and that the lack of physical evidence of votes is problematic.

Only 16 percent of the world's countries use an electronic voting system like the one in Brazil, according to the Institute for democracy and electoral assistance (IDEA), which has collected data from 178 different countries. The most common voting systems are non-electronic, and are used in approximately 80 percent of the world's countries - including Sweden. A non-electronic voting system means that the votes are counted and registered manually.

In African countries, biometric identification of the person voting is common - a system that, according to IDEA, is used in around 40 percent of the continent's countries. In short, the system means that the identification of the person entitled to vote takes place in the polling station using, among other things, fingerprints, facial scanning and voice recognition. Often the identification takes place together with paper ID to increase security. 

In Brazil - the world's fifth most populous country - since 2008 the authorities have used biometric technology to identify the voter. Overall, 120 million Brazilians identified themselves with fingerprints in 2022, and according to the electoral authority technology will cover all eligible voters in 2026.

In addition to biometric identification of the voter, since 1996 Brazil uses an electoral system with electronic ballot boxes. The voting machines, which can be compared to small computers with different numbers on them representing different candidates, must be adapted for all eligible voters in the country, according to the Brazilian electoral authority. For example, people with disabilities must be able to receive assistance during voting.

The electronic ballot boxes in Brazil give rise, according to the country's authorities, to a number of advantages:

  1. The results of the Brazilian elections are usually presented only hours after the polls have closed.
  2. As the system is electronic, it becomes clear which candidate is meant - there is no risk of reading errors in handwritten numbers or filled in boxes.
  3. The security of the system has been tested by the Supreme Court and the Electoral Authority of Brazil, and is considered by them to be high.

However, the electronic ballot boxes have been criticized and likened to "black boxes" without control functions by the organization Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). In a 2018 report IEEE highlights in particular that it is problematic that there is no physical proof that a person has actually voted in the election – which contributes to the fact that the vote count can be called into question. Since there is no physical proof that a person voted, it is also not possible to recount the votes. Another shortcoming highlighted is that all ballot boxes have the same software, which makes the system vulnerable to hackers. Other critics also point to problems with electronic voting systems - on the one hand, it concerns the secrecy of the vote and the question of how to anonymize a vote and still make it possible to check that the vote is counted precisely in the way the voter intended, partly that the electronic voting systems can be difficult to control and that you become dependent on a functioning software.

Despite the criticism, Brazil has used an electronic voting system, and now the country just has valt a new president. How electronic voting systems – both in Brazil and in the rest of the world – are used in the future remains to be seen.  

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