Threatening the 2022 elections is a high crime
Printed Ballot Amendment is intended to disrupt the 2022 election process by promoting an unfounded distrust
Foto: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado
A solid democracy requires not only the republican spirit of elected officials, but also the common sense and responsibility of the losers. Casting doubt on the integrity of the electoral system is a strategy commonly used to attack or undermine the Democratic State and to dangerously embolden the losing sides against its institutions.
In January of this year, the world witnessed in real-time the risks of the election fraud narrative when a mob of extremists invaded the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the inauguration of the president-elect, Joe Biden. Throughout the election campaign, the then president and candidate for reelection, Donald Trump, alleged fraud in the postal voting system, paving the way to contest an eventual victory by his opponent.
Given their alignment with the Trump government, Bolsonaro and his allies have imported many of the agendas and strategies of the U.S. radical right, including the discrediting of the voting system and, subsequently, of the Electoral Courts. Without presenting any evidence, Bolsonaro continues to allege fraud in the elections that made him president in 2018 – which he says he won in the first round – and also in the 2014 elections, even though the defeated candidate himself recently told the press that he does not believe that any such irregularity occurred.
Using the allegation of fraud, the Bolsonaro government and its allies in the National Congress are pressing for the approval of Constitutional Amendment Proposal No. 135/2019, better known as the Printed Ballot Amendment, which is pending in the Special Committee and was drafted by the pro-Bolsonaro Congresswoman Bia Kicis. The central justification of the proposal is to enable an “audit” of the electronic ballot boxes based on the requirement to print the ballot that can be checked by the voter upon voting.
Of course, the security of the electronic voting machines and the whole counting process can and must be the subject of public scrutiny, including additional audits to those already in place, while always respecting the confidentiality of the vote. Indeed, the Superior Electoral Court conducts several auditing procedures both before and during the elections, involving electoral judges, public servants, members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and political parties, as well as organizations such as the Brazilian Bar Association.
Both the voting machines and the software undergo public control and testing right up until the program is installed and the machine is sealed. Before voting begins, a report is issued certifying that the machine has been set at zero. Once the election has been concluded, a report on the machine is issued and any citizen can access the result using a QR code. In addition, during the voting, some machines are chosen randomly for parallel voting, in which paper votes are registered in the electronic ballot box for subsequent checking and always in the presence of auditors and inspectors appointed by the political parties or coalitions. To learn more about the security of the electronic voting machines, see the Electoral Court website.
Unlike these efforts at transparency and security made by the Electoral Court, the purpose of the printed ballot proposal is the opposite of what it claims to combat, since it is intended to disrupt the 2022 election process by promoting an unfounded distrust.
Since its implementation in 1996, no flaws or fraud have been identified in the operation of the electronic voting machines. On the contrary, there is ample evidence, all duly documented, of the risks involved both in the old paper ballot system and in printed ballots. In 2002, when the system of electronic voting together with printed ballots was tested, the result was delays, long lines, confusion over the vote printing, ballots unchecked by voters, technical issues in the voting machines and the printers and vulnerability in the safeguarding of the physical ballot box.
In a statement, the Superior Electoral Court said that, given the allegations of fraud in the 2018 elections, the Electoral Internal Affairs Officer summoned President Jair Bolsonaro to submit the alleged evidence. Bolsonaro did not respond, but continues to threaten the court and its judges, and he even went so far as to say that the next elections will not take place unless the printed ballot system is introduced. In this context, we endorse the statement made by the Superior Electoral Court that “the holding of elections, on the date established in the Constitution, is a prerequisite of any democratic regime. Any measure to prevent its occurrence violates constitutional principles and constitutes a high crime”.
There is, therefore, only one course of action for anyone who is committed to the defense of the Democratic State: oppose the printed ballot and commit to respecting the 2022 election result. It is time to work resoundingly in the defense of democracy.