By Professor Andre Brandli, PhD
News Americas, Munich, Germany, Thurs. Oct. 6, 2022: Guyana’s General Elections of March 2, 2020, were marred by irregularities during the vote counting process, which led to a recount supervised by CARICOM.
Subsequently, election petitions were filed at the Guyana’s High Court, which still await final resolution. Now have a look at Brazil, our neighbor to the south covering 49% of South America’s land mass with a population of 216 million people, 270 times that of Guyana.
Elections were held last Sunday, October 2, 2022, to elect the President, Vice President, and the National Congress. In addition, elections for Governors and Vice Governors, State Legislative Assemblies, were held at the same time in 26 states and 1 federal district. Most amazingly, the results of that vote were made public less than twelve hours after the last polling stations had closed. How was this possible?
Brazil uses an electronic voting system that has been working smoothly for more than a quarter century. It was first introduced in 1996. Since 2000, elections in Brazil have been held completely electronically. This has prevented the manipulation of ballot boxes that was previously common. In addition, the number of invalid votes has been reduced because voters who cannot read or write were often overwhelmed before. Brazilian voters used to have to write in their candidates’ numbers. Now they enter a code, see the photo of the person selected and confirm the person with a green button. Those who wish to abstain or vote invalid (voting is compulsory in Brazil) press a white button.
The electronic ballot boxes for the 156 million voters are not connected to the Internet. They are deployed to polling stations throughout the vast country from densely populated urban centers in the south to the most remote regions in the Amazon basin to the north. The electronic ballot boxes function autonomously. The results of each polling station are printed out at the end of voting and posted publicly. The hard drive with the voting results is taken in a sealed envelope to the next electoral court in the constituent state, and the results are transmitted by internet or satellite (in the Amazon region, for example) directly to Brasilia to the Supreme Electoral Court.
A printout of a person’s vote as proof is not permitted, because the receipt would allow vote buyers to verify that a voter voted as promised. In addition, a candidate could more easily claim that there were irregularities in the elections during parallel vote counts – just like Donald Trump did in the US Presidential Elections of 2020.
Given the long track record of Brazil’s electronic voting system, GECOM should seriously consider adopting it for Guyana’s next and any future general elections.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Andre Brandli, PhD is a professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany.