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E-Voting Raises New Questions In Brazil 158

Posted by kdawson
from the how-to-handle-diebold dept.
Zaatxe writes, "Today is election day in Brazil. About 125 million people are expected to vote for president, governor, congressman (for both state and federal levels) and senator. The Washington Post has some interesting details about the electronic voting machines used in Brazil. From the article: 'Elections in Brazil used to be a monumental challenge, with millions of paper ballots to count by hand, many of them delivered by canoe and horseback from remote Amazon villages. Fraud was widespread, and it often took a week or more to determine the winners. Latin America's largest country eliminated many of these hassles by switching to electronic voting a decade ago, long before the United States and other countries... Some computer programmers who have closely examined Brazil's system say... confidence is misguided... Some Brazilians are lobbying... to switch from Windows CE to an open-source operating system for the voting machines, since Microsoft Corp., citing trade secrecy, won't allow independent audits to make sure malicious programmers haven't inserted commands to "flip" votes from one candidate to another.'" Read more below.


As a Brazilian voter, it was a shock for me to see that the voting machines here are made by Diebold. But what makes me confident in the system can also be found in the article: "Given the choice of picking a system where wholesale rigging is easy, versus one where it's impossible, why has Brazil gone with the system where it's easy? Brazil did build in some safeguards during its transition to electronic voting — protections that still don't exist in the US. While the code behind Microsoft's operating system remains secret, independent auditors must approve of the overlying voting software before it is inserted into the nation's 430,000 machines. The software remains open to inspections for three months before election day. And hours before the polls open, randomly chosen voting machines are tested 'to verify that the software inside does what it is supposed to do.'"
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E-Voting Raises New Questions In Brazil

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  • by Zaatxe (939368) on Monday October 02, 2006 @07:56AM (#16275159)
    I find it's somewhat weird that one can't directly vote as "null" (this means, in other words, you're refraining yourself from participating). In order to vote as "null", you have to pick an invalid candidate number. [...] For some reason, it seems to be this is a form of pushing the nation into voting *for someone*.

    1) A nullified vote means you made a mistake picking a candidate. This "mistake" can be delibered or not.
    2) If you are not willing to participate (considering that voting is mandatory in Brazil), the voting machine has a "blank" button.
    3) The voting machines have the "blank" button since the first prototype in 1996. Actually, the design of the voting machine hasn't changed much since then.
    4) The blank vote has always existed, since the paper ballot and it has the same effect of nullified votes. But the blank votes were the fraud source in paper ballots: some dishonest vote counters would fill the blank votes during counting. Believe me, that happened much often than you can imagine. With voting machines, that's impossible.
  • by FFFFHALTFFFF (996601) on Monday October 02, 2006 @08:01AM (#16275195)
    Well, I worked with that machines and I can say they are secure. They dont have any output with external world, like ethernet and others kinds of communication. The votes are stored in floppy disks, with a big seal. If the seal is broken, the votes cant be official. But the seal is big and hard to damage. I believe today we have a great vote system, because we have the results in 13 hours after the election.
  • by Zaatxe (939368) on Monday October 02, 2006 @08:20AM (#16275331)
    Randomize the buttons so that the order of candidates changes every time, store the order in a table.

    Forgive me, but that sounds like a VB programmer idea. Anyway, Sao Paulo state had about 1000 candidates for congressman. Are you sure putting them in the screen in with no preditable order would help anyway? It would only happen to make large lines in the voting precintes!
    In Brazil every party has a 2-digit number that identifies it. For executive candidates (president, governor and mayor) they use the party number. Senators use 3 digit numbers, federal congressmen use 4 digit numbers, city counselours and state congressmen 5 digits, being the first 2 from their parties.
    When you enter the numbers, the voting machine shows their name, party and a picture, because Brazil still have lots of illiterate people. Besides the voting machine's buttons are large and have the numbers in Braille for the blind, along with a audible feedback.

    Touch screen with the name of the candidates? Bah! This is unnecessary excess of technology and source of problems.
  • by Zaatxe (939368) on Monday October 02, 2006 @08:45AM (#16275461)
    I might be worried that some left-wing nutjob in Brazil would nationalize that source code and fork in a "fuck the yankee imperialist capitalist" move that Latin America loves so much.

    You are american, right? You must be, because you show little knowledge of foreign politics. Sure, Latin America has its share of "left-wing nutjobs", like Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. But that's not the case in Brazil. We also have our left-wing nutjobs (and one of them ended in third place in yesterday's election) but they seldom achieve anything important.

    About the "little respect for forign IP in the past", it didn't matter if it was foreign or national, it was a question of public health, which should be one of the top priorities in any government. AIDS strikes harder on poor people, and the pharmaceutical industry doesn't seem to be willing to spread the return of their investiment for too long.
    And just for you to know, the Minister of Health that made this move was a center-right wing politician (which by the way won the election for governor in Sao Paulo, where 1/4 or Brazil population lives).
  • by Zaatxe (939368) on Monday October 02, 2006 @10:02AM (#16276193)
    Blank votes goes for the candidates with the most votes in the last turn. On the other hand, if in the last turn no candidate reaches 50%+1 votes (because of the null votes), the election is cancelled, and the current candidades may not run for the next one.

    My dear heavens! Where did you take this idea from? The election could be cancelled if, and only if, more than 50% of total votes were null. "Could be cancelled", it's not for sure. It's up to the Supreme Electoral Court to decide what happens if more than 50% of the votes are null. (I'm not linking the official page on this information because it's in portuguese and wouldn't be fair for most slashdotters.)
  • by Dr.Potato (247646) on Monday October 02, 2006 @11:17AM (#16277229)
    "Ooooh, and without a paper trail, how do you prove that you did in fact vote, if your salary payment is suddenly stopped? Something tells me that mandatory voting may be the law, but it is not enforced."

    I worked in the elections ( I was drafted..) and can tell you how it works. The person who comes to vote brings his 'Voting card' (lacking a better translation for Titulo Eleitoral), presents it to a person of the voting staff (like me) who checks in a list if he is scheduled to vote in that area. After, and only after, he votes, he gets a 'voting certificate, which is a small stub that can be detached from the area close to his name in the list.

    The person voting is required to sign the list, and this signature is checked against the signature in the voting card. If there is any doubt in the identity of the person, we can request further prof of identity (ID card, driving license...).

    This list is sent from the central voting tribunal to each election region, which is divided in smaller 'sections'. In my sections there were approx. 400 voters. More or less 90% appeared, the others probably justified for not voting in other sections.

    And just to make another point: every political party is entitled to have a person checking the voting procedure, in each section. I had 2 people (one form each party) looking over my shoulder almost all the time.

    And they cheked when the disk with the voting machine results was removed from the machine and placed in a sealed envelope . And they further followed the guy who took the disk to the central processing center of the Electoral Tribunal.

    Apart from the software side, the process if very difficult to
    be tampered.
  • Secure WinCE? Against what, exactly? I would hope to god the voting machines weren't connected to a public network, and at any rate the WinCE codebase is almost entirely different from that of NT and 9x. Also:

    A distinctive feature of Windows CE vis-à-vis other Microsoft operating systems is that large parts of it are offered in source code form. First, source code was offered to several vendors, so they could adjust it to their hardware. Then products like Platform Builder (an integrated environment for Windows CE OS image creation and integration, or customized operating system designs based on CE) offered several components in source code form to the general public.


    Source [wikipedia.org]. So, kindly, please stop talking out of your ass. I know you love bashing Microsoft, but at least try to be sane and sensible about it, k?
  • by Rivabem (312224) on Monday October 02, 2006 @12:32PM (#16278427)

    Blank votes are very different from null votes.

    A blank vote means "I don't care". A null vote mean "I'm not satisfied with any of the candidates".

    Blank votes goes for the candidates with the most votes in the last turn. On the other hand, if in the last turn no candidate reaches 50%+1 votes (because of the null votes), the election is cancelled, and the current candidades may not run for the next one.


    No, null means "I'm so dumb I can't use a keyboard properly"

    The blanks votes goes for no one! It was true in the military times (1964-85) but since them is no more. They simple doesn't count in the end, just like the null votes.

    And the null issue is not for votes nulled by voters, but by electoral justice, for instance, a candidate had 51% of the total votes, and for some reason, his candidacy is impugnated (because of a electoral crime, for instance).

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