As Bolsonaro challenges election loss, experts push back on voting machine software bug claim

More than three weeks after losing a re-election bid, incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blamed a software bug on Tuesday and asked the electoral authority to void votes cast on most of the country’s electronic voting machines, although independent experts say the bug does not affect the reliability of the results.

Such action would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes — and a re-election victory, Marcelo de Bessa, the lawyer who filed the 33-page request on behalf of the president and his liberal party, told reporters.

The electoral authority has already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and even many of Bolsonaro’s allies have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have staunchly refused to do the same, especially with Bolsonaro refusing to concede.

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa Neto and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia, the country’s capital, that their assessment found all machines dating from before 2020 – nearly 280,000 of them, or about 59% of the total used in October 30 runoff — lack of individual identification numbers in internal records.

Neither explained how it might have affected the election results, but said they were asking the election authority to invalidate all votes cast on those machines.

The complaint called the bug an “irreparable nonconformity due to malfunction” questioning the authenticity of the results.

Valdemar Costa Neto, the leader of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, speaks at a press conference on Tuesday regarding an investigation by the party that uncovered inconsistencies in voting machines used in general elections. (Eraldo Peres/Associated Press)

Immediately afterwards, the head of the electoral authority issued a decision which implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s own party would suffer from such a challenge.

Alexandre de Moraes said the court would not consider the complaint unless the party offered an amended report within 24 hours that would include the results of the first round of elections on October 2, in which the Liberal Party won more than seats in both houses of Congress than any other. .

Experts say bug doesn’t affect results

The bug wasn’t known before, but experts said it didn’t affect the results either.

Each voting machine can still be easily identified by other means, such as its city and electoral district, according to Wilson Ruggiero, professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo.

Diego Aranha, associate professor of systems security at Aarhus University in Denmark, who has been involved in official security testing of Brazil’s electoral system, agrees.

“It in no way compromises reliability or credibility,” Ruggiero told The Associated Press by phone. “The key point that guarantees accuracy is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.”

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Although the machines do not have individual ID numbers in their internal logs, those numbers appear on printed receipts that show the sum of all votes cast for each candidate, Aranha said, adding that the bug did not. detected only through the efforts of the electorate. power to ensure greater transparency.

Bolsonaro’s less than two-point loss to da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest margin since Brazil returned to democracy in 1985.

Although the president did not explicitly cry foul, he refused to concede defeat or congratulate his opponent, leaving supporters to draw their own conclusions.

Many protested relentlessly, alleging electoral fraud and demanding the intervention of the armed forces.

Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside the press conference on Tuesday, dressed in Brazil’s green and yellow flag and chanting patriotic songs. Some verbally attacked and pushed journalists trying to enter the room.

Supporters of incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro protest against Bolsonaro’s election defeat outside the army headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, November 15. Bolsonaro supporters are calling on the armed forces to intervene in what they call a “fraudulent election”. (Eraldo Peres/Associated Press)

No evidence of fraud found

Bolsonaro has spent more than a year claiming that Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, without ever presenting evidence.

Brazil began using an electronic voting system in 1996, and election security experts consider such systems to be less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no verifiable paper trail. But Brazil’s system has come under scrutiny from national and international experts who have never found evidence that it was being exploited to commit fraud.

Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said Tuesday afternoon that the election results were “indisputable”.

Bolsonaro has been almost completely isolated in the official residence since his defeat on October 30, inviting much speculation as to whether he is despondent or plotting to cling to power.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Vice President Hamilton Mourao attributed Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs which he says prevents the president from wearing pants.

But his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal lawmaker, was more blunt.

“We have always been wary of these machines. … We want a massive audit,” the young Bolsonaro said last week at a conference in Mexico City. “There is very strong evidence to order an investigation into the elections in Brazil.”

WATCH | Bolsonaro remains silent after the electoral defeat:

Bolsonaro silent after losing vote in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro, the incumbent president of Brazil, has remained silent and it is unclear whether he will concede defeat in the second round of elections this weekend. Meanwhile, his supporters began blocking roads in protest against Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s election victory.

For its audit, the Liberal Party hired the Legal Vote Institute, a group that has criticized the current system, saying it defies the law by not providing a digital record of every individual vote.

In a separate report presented earlier this month, Brazil’s military said there were flaws in the country’s electoral systems and offered improvements, but failed to substantiate allegations of fraud by some supporters of the country. Bolsonaro.

Analysts have suggested that the armed forces, which have been a key part of Bolsonaro’s administration, may have maintained a semblance of uncertainty on the issue to avoid displeasing the president.

In a later statement, the Ministry of Defense stressed that while it had found no evidence of fraud during the vote count, it could not rule out the possibility.

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