Alagoan Elections: Keeping the Black Box Black


“Those are not bugs, those are features termites.” Voting machines and diskettes of the type used to upload elections software, found partially incinerated in a vacant lot near the Maceió warehouse of a firm hired to prep the machines for use, were infested with cupins, according to an early version of this wild and wooly affair.

I’m shredding the document
I’m keeping my mouth shut
I’m running on radio silence
I’m letting the record speak
–John Hiatt, “Shredding the Document”

Consultor Jurídico updates us on the technical postmortem ordered by Brazilian election authorities on the voting machines used in the statewide elections in Alagoas in 2006.

The news comes as electronic beancounting skeptics question the quality-control procedures used in the New Hampshire primaries, back there in the Other Hemisphere.

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The losing candidate for the governorship claimed that opinion polling indicated an easy victory for him in the first round.

The actual result: An easy victory for his opponent in the first round.

An independent audit of the quality-control log files showed that quality-control logging processes failed in a large number of the machines, making the reliability of the vote-count impossible to certify.

David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki-style fear and misinformation abounded in subsequent debate over what to do about the fiasco.

The lonely but dogged proponents of a reality-based engineering approach to e-voting security, however, eventually got the Brazilian congress to form a subcommittee to study the issue.

Which I thought was an impressive achievement. I have a lot of sincere admiration for organized Brazilian e-voting security nerds.

Police later found election-related materials, including electronic components and diskettes used to upload software, torched and scorched in a vacant lot in Maceio, near the facility used by an outsourcing contract hired to prep the machines.

Various lame excuses, not even the more plausible of which — and “the machines were infested with termites” was not very plausible — could be true at the same time, were offered. See

One year later, the winning candidate is still litigating to prevent testing of the machines designed to clarify what went wrong.

O ministro Ari Pargendler, do Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, abriu vista à Procuradoria Geral Eleitoral do Agravo de Instrumento em que o governador de Alagoas, Teotônio Vilela Filho (PSDB), pede reforma da obrigação de fazer perícia nas urnas eletrônicas utilizadas em nas eleições de 2006.

Justice Pargendler of the federal elections tribunal (TSE) granted the federal elections prosecutor time to study the appeal filed by Alagoas governor Vilela (PSDB), which asks the TSE to amend its order to conduct expert testing of the electronic voting machines used in the 2006 elections.

I am fudging the translation here because of the legal terminology, which I am too lazy to research right now. Agravo de instrumento, according to a glossary provided by the federal attorney’s office (PGR):

Recurso admitido contra decisões interlocutórias em que o agravo será processado fora dos autos da causa onde se deu a decisão impugnada, formando razões e contra-razões dos litigantes para o respectivo julgamento. Será interposto quando existir risco de a decisão causar lesão grave e de difícil reparação à parte, nos casos em que ocorrer inadmissão da apelação e nos casos relativos aos efeitos em que a apelação é recebida.

Kind of a motion to reconsider, sort of. IANAL.

O Agravo é contra o candidato derrotado das eleições no estado, João Lyra (PTB). Em dezembro de 2006, ele acusou o governador eleito, junto ao Tribunal Regional Eleitoral, de ter fraudado as urnas eletrônicas do estado. A prova pericial permitirá o acesso ao sistema de segurança da urna eletrônica, sem o acompanhamento do TSE. O governador pede ainda que a União seja intimada para atuar no processo.

The motion was filed against the defeated candidate in the state elections, João Lyra (PTB). In December 2006, he charged the governor-elect in the regional elections tribunal with having defrauded the electronic voting machines used in the state. The technical testing order would permit access to the machine’s security system, without TSE oversight. The governor also asked that the Federal Union be summoned to participate in the proceedings [on this motion].

I understood that TSE technicians would be overseeing the testing.

I need to catch up on my reading about this case. The basic logic used by the TSE seems to be that it is moving swiftly and effectively to fix the problems that arose in the Alagoas case — while simultaneously denying that there were problems, problems requiring it to identify the problems in order to fix them.

O governador argumenta que a perícia seria desnecessária, pois o resultado final das eleições poderia ser comprovado pelo confronto dos boletins de urna com os cadernos de votação das mesas receptoras. Ele alega, ainda, que a auditoria de verificação do funcionamento das urnas (votação paralela) feita no dia da votação transcorreu sem qualquer irregularidade.

The governor argues that the technial examination is unnecesary, given that the final result of the elections can be proven by comparing the voting bulletin printed by the machines with the voter registration rolls at the polling stations. He also alleges that auditing the process for verifying the proper functioning of the machines (parallel voting) performed on election day went off without a hitch.

That is, the TSE selects a number of machines at random at runs a test in which the results are known beforehand, to check the accuracy of the machines.

Teotônio Vilela ressalta que o presidente do TSE, ministro Marco Aurélio, já anunciou providências no sentido de solicitar ao Instituto Tecnológico da Aeronáutica (ITA) e à Universidade de Campinas (Unicamp) a confecção de laudos sobre o funcionamento das urnas eletrônicas nas eleições 2006 em Alagoas.

Vilela emphasizes that TSE presiding justice Marco Aurélio has already announced measures, in that he has ordered the Air Force technical institute (ITA) and Unicamp to prepare technical reports on the functioning of the voting machines in the 2006 elections in Alagoas.

Ainda de acordo com o governador, a jurisprudência do TSE é no sentido de que a ausência de impugnação das urnas eletrônicas no momento adequado, no dia da eleição, gera a preclusão da alegação de fraude. O candidato derrotado questionou a legalidade das eleições em razão da diferença entre o resultado das pesquisas eleitorais e o resultado final da totalização dos votos.

He also argues that TSE jurisprudence tends to support the thesis that the lack of a timely challgenge, filed on election day, precludes bringing allegations of fraud. The defeated candidate questioned the legality of the election because of the difference between the outcome of opinion polling and the actual results.

The president of the Alagoas state legislative assembly, a political ally of the governor, is in hot water at the moment over an alleged scheme to plunder the public treasury by hiring ghost employees whose paychecks actually went … God only knows where. Into the murky underworld of caixa dois, one guesses.

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The PSDB before it decided to form a political alliance with the former PFL: The party of Mario “The Last Honest Man in Brazilian Politics” Covas and de-Malufication.

The PSDB after it decided to form a political alliance with the former PFL: The party of Diamond Joe Quimby.

It reminds me a lot of the devolution experienced by Mexico’s PAN.

See also

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