Changes to Brazil’s voting system only “in the future”

election Justices Luís Roberto Barroso and Rosa Weber
Justices Luís Roberto Barroso and Rosa Weber. Photo: Roberto Jayme/ASCOM/TSE

The pandemic has upended Brazil’s 2020 municipal election, with congressional heads openly discussing a postponement of the vote, originally scheduled for October. The question is, when would it be safe to hold the election? Per Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, Brazil’s newly-inaugurated chief electoral justice, if the spread is contained the best option would be to hold the first-round late in November, with runoff races in mid-December.

Asked about the use of smartphone apps as a viable alternative to ballot boxes, Justice Barroso said it is a “priority project,” not only because of the pandemic but also as a cost-saving measure. According to him, the electoral courts have to replace between 70,000 and 80,000 electronic voting machines every two years.

According to Justice Barroso, Brazil’s internet infrastructure shortcomings would not be an obstacle to mobile phone voting, as it could be carried out via telephone lines. “One of my concerns with this voting model is maintaining the secrecy of the ballot. We do not know whether the voter will be surveilled,” said Justice Barroso. He also defended using a small town for a pilot project, but that such tests would not be carried out in this year’s election.

The China factor

For the 2020 election, the number of electronic voting machines will be reduced from 430,000 to 400,000 due to a shortage of inputs from China, with the electronics sector being severely affected by the coronavirus-related Chinese slowdown. To compensate, ideas such as extending polling hours or scheduling multiple election days are being considered.

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