How They Count Votes in Brazil

Presented with an opportunity to explain the current turmoil in Brazil, Australia’s establishment media once again took the easy, lazy course by rounding up the standard cliches and memes to present as informed ‘analysis’.

To see just how bad the coverage has been, start with Augusto’s account (below) of how politics is played in Brazil. Then read this oped by Lia Timson, the Nine rags’ deputy foreign editor, and marvel that so many misconceptions and preconceptions could be jammed into so relatively few words.

“Just like Trump,” writes Ms Timson, Bolsonaro “claimed the election could be stolen and repeatedly made false claims about voting fraud during his re-election campaign.” Who has proven them to be “false”? Ms Timson isn’t saying. — roger franklin


THE second round of Brazil’s presidential elections was held on Sunday, October 30. The former president, Lula da Silva, who has served prison time for corruption, apparently won 50.90% of the vote and the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, received 49.10%. In other words, Lula was declared winner with less than 1 per cent lead over Bolsonaro. This is according to judges of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Brazil’s top electoral authority. It was an unexpected comeback for the former president, who was directly responsible for the biggest series of corruption scandals in the nation’s history.[1] Lula is “back at the scene of the crime”, according to the description made not a long time ago by his own vice-president in the presidential ticket. According to J.R. Guzzo, one of Brazil’s most accomplished journalists, the 2022 election in Brazil has been “a legal and political fraud as we have never seen in this country”.[2]  In an article entitled De Volta à Cena do Crime (Back at the Scene of the Crime), he commented:

Lula returned to the presidency via the general collapse of the Constitution and Brazilian laws throughout the electoral process – the result of an unprecedented meddling of the judiciary, which was entirely illegal in each step of the process. The basic fact is that the judiciary, with Justice Alexandre de Moraes issuing orders and Lula in the role of its sole beneficiary, did everything it could for any neutral observer to conclude this was a rigged election … Basically, Supreme Court justices and its electoral arm, the Superior Electoral Tribunal, put together piece by piece a mechanism designed to favour the leftist candidate. The first step was for these unelected judges to simply overturn the four criminal convictions against Lula and, with it, perform the “magic” of disappearing with all the dirty record which precluded him from being a candidate.[3] 

But there is a rather decisive international element in Lula’s victory as well. Just after a few outlets called the election in Brazil, U.S. President Joe Biden orchestrated a rapid international embrace of Lula. In a statement released immediately after the result was officially announced, Biden claimed that Lula had won “following free, fair, and credible elections”.[4]  In short order, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak all released statements congratulating Lula. “The people of Brazil have spoken”, said Trudeau, writing within an hour and a half of the result.[5]

This essay was first published  at QoL in November 2022
It is reprised as an antidote to the mainstream media’s
predictably shallow and ill-informed coverage

In August 2021, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Brazil to issue the following warning to the Brazilian president: do not even dare even to question the reliability of your country’s electronic voting system.[6] A month earlier, in July 2021, the newly installed Biden sent his CIA director, William Burns, to travel to the country to meet with senior Brazilian officials. During that meeting, the U.S. delegation warned the Brazilian government that President Bolsonaro “should stop casting doubt in his country’s [entirely electronic] electoral process”.[7] Next, at the June 2022  Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, the Biden administration notoriously repeated the same warning that the U.S. government would not tolerate Bolsonaro casting any doubt on the reliability and security of the nation’s voting machines.[8] Since these messages came before the outcome of the election, this was a clear warning of dire consequences should the Brazilian president contest the alleged fairness and transparency of the electoral process. [9]

Fair and transparent elections invariably require paper-based voting. This is why most developed countries still use paper ballots and physical ballot boxes made of canvas, plastic, and other non-electronic materials.[10] About seven years ago, two German citizens challenged the constitutionality of electronic voting before their nation’s Constitutional Court. The decision by the German Constitutional Court stressed the need for absolute transparency in the electoral process, which is not possible if the process is restricted to specialist technical knowledge. Therefore, the court concluded, the complementary examination by the electoral bodies and the general public can only be made possible through physical vote records in addition to electronic storage.[11]

With the entirely electronic voting system implemented in Brazil, however, there is no absolute guarantee that citizens’ votes are exactly what they have cast because there is no actual physical register for each vote cast electronically. In other words, Brazilians are unable to confirm whether their votes are cast properly. Of course, if their elections were conducted with paper ballots, then the counting of votes would be made public via the direct participation of electoral inspectors and voluntary delegates, so that any suspicion of possible electoral fraud would be dramatically reduced, with the counting of votes done on-site and immediately after the voting booth’s closing time. The reintroduction of paper-based voting would make the counting of votes more time-consuming, but  at least a manual process would deliver more confidence in the results than the electronic system presently adopted in Brazil.

However, on August 10, 2021, the National Congress failed to pass a constitutional amendment that required the printing of physical ballots to be marked by the voter. Unfortunately, that important proposal was rejected in great part due to the strong political lobbying of the then top electoral judge, Luís Roberto Barroso, also a Supreme Court judge and both a “vociferous opponent of Bolsonaro”[12] and ardent defender of voting machines. He managed to convince enough members of the legislature to reject these reasonable amendment proposals.[13]

Democratic elections require independent verification that (a) all balloting choices have been recorded as intended and (b) vote totals have been reliably and indisputably created from the same material examined by the voters.[14] But if the process becomes entirely electronic accurate audits are practically impossible. Votes cast using electronic voting machines appear to contain numerous weaknesses in the safeguards designed to protect the system.[15] Apparently, touch-screen machines are susceptible to fraud due to their outdated technology. In Brazil’s case this was the seventh presidential election to use the same electronic voting machines, which are similar to self-service touchscreen devices found at fast-food restaurants. According to Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, because the sensors in these touch-screen voting machines can be easily knocked out of alignment by shock and vibration, such machines may ultimately misinterpret and misrepresent a voter’s intent. As a result, touching candidate “Bolso” can see candidate “Louis” light up instead.[16]   

Above all, electronic voting machines are not as secure as paper-based systems because there is always the potential for hackers to tamper with the results. This is why most developed countries still use analog voting and counting (i.e., paper ballots and physical ballot boxes) [17] Besides Brazil, the other countries that use similar electronic voting machines nationwide are Bhutan and Venezuela. As noted by Aviel Rubin, PhD, director of the Information Security Institute at John Hopkins University, and author of several books on information technology and cyber security, the use of electronic voting machines is flawed and easy to manipulate.[18] According to Rebecca Mercuri, PhD, president of Notable Software,

A Voter Verified Paper Ballot (VVPB) provides an auditable way to assure voters that their ballots will be available to be counted … Without VVPB there is no way to independently audit the election results. Equipment failures, configurations and programming errors have resulted in costly election recalls and disputes that could have been prevented with VVPB.[19]

There have been several reports in Brazil of problems with the nation’s electronic voting system, although these reports are typically disregarded by the relevant authorities. In 2012, for example, a hacker stunned an audience at the Society of Engineers and Architects of Rio de Janeiro by explaining how he rigged that year’s local elections by intercepting data fed into the vote counting system. He modified the results in the computer of the regional electoral tribunal in order to favor some candidates and did so without the fraud being detected. Using the codename “Rangel”, he explains how the ruse worked:

 We accessed the electoral tribunal network when the results were being transmitted and after 50% of the data had already been transmitted, we struck. We modified the results, even when the counting was about to be closed.[20]

In the 2014 presidential election, electoral delegates from Porto Velho, the capital city of Rondônia state, discovered that only the number 13 for candidate Lula da Silva was appearing on the voting machine’s screen. According to delegate Evaldo Filho, who was monitoring the voting at the site, more than 20 people had complained that the machine would display only that specific number whenever the voter would type another candidate’s number. The problem was reported to the regional electoral tribunal by many members of that polling station and electoral delegates. As a solution, electoral judge Álvaro Káliz Ferreira explained: “After the first complaint about the machine was made, technicians examined the problem and the system was restarted, so there was no further problem”. “There was no need to change the equipment. Voting continued on the spot,” he added.[21]

Eight years ago the federal Department of Public Prosecutions relied on a comprehensive report by academic researchers from the University of Brasilía (UnB) to report that the nation’s electronic voting system was seriously “flawed and cannot guarantee confidentiality of voting and the integrity of election results”.[22] The report addressed numerous “vulnerabilities in the program used in those voting machines, with the potential effect of violating vote counting”. [23] Elaborated mainly by public prosecutor Pedro Antonio Machado, the official report informed that, due to restrictions imposed by the federal electoral tribunal, researchers were simply not allowed to undertake more conclusive tests, thus making it impossible for them to demonstrate the existence of any further vulnerabilities of the electronic voting machines.

According to cyber security professor Diego Aranha, of the University of Campinas (Unicamp), those researchers were given only five hours by the electoral tribunal to access the source code (program in computer language) of the voting software.[24] In 2018, electoral judges invited Professor Aranha to participate in official tests of these electronic voting machines. And yet, those judges required him to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of any information he obtained regarding the results of that investigation. Aranha refused to sign such agreement, insisting those results should be publicly available. He did however, eventually, agree to participate as the tests’ researcher coordinator, subsequently explaining that numerous vulnerabilities were found in the electronic machines. At a public hearing convened by the Electoral Tribunal, to Professor Aranha’s astonishment, he watched electoral judges claim that at no moment during those tests were the secrecy or integrity of e-votes cast violated, an assertion he dbranded a “blatant lie”.[25] “The problems are far more serious than the TSE claims it to be”, he said.[26] Upon learning of that interview, the electoral tribunal issued a statement claiming that Professor Aranha’s disclosure of security flaws constitutes “a threat to democracy”.[27]

Brazil has a Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) where its electoral judges create rules, decide on disputes, and even supervise the finances of electoral campaigns. Composed of seven members, three are elected by secret vote from among Supreme Court justices and two others are elected by secret vote from among judges of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), Brazil’s second-highest court. The remaining two are appointed by the President of the Republic from among six lawyers nominated by Supreme Court justices. Curiously, some of these top electoral judges campaigned openly — indeed, ferociously — against President Jair Bolsonaro. On February 19, then-presiding judge of the senior electoral tribunal, Luis Roberto Barroso, spoke at the Texas University Law School on the topic of … ‘Ditching a President’.[28] Thirty days earlier, he delivered a talk at the University of Chicago where he described the actions of the electoral court as a “warfare operation”. According to Justice Barroso, this

was made possible through immediate responses to questions about the validity of the Brazilian electronic voting system, and by cooperating with major social media platforms to exert continuous monitoring of social media behavior in search for inauthentic behavior.

Also, the Superior Electoral Tribunal established alliances with major fact-checking companies in Brazil and traditional media outlets. Finally, social education was focused on addressing the issue of what is fake news, how to identify it, and how to avoid passing it along.[29]

On June 25, Justice Barroso addressed the Brazil Forum UK at Oxford University, where he expressed his displeasure that far too many Brazilians appeared to have WhatsApp as a primary source of information. According to him, the use of social media is not desirable because it causes the spread of “misinformation” which encourages a lack of faith in the voting system and is not filtered by “professional journalists”.[30] When he went on to advocate and endorse the purported transparency and reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting machines he was promptly interrupted by two visiting Brazilian students who consider these machines entirely unrealiable. Like millions of Brazilians, those students wanted to see a physical register for each electronic ballot — a sheet of paper that could be printed so that citizens could confirm whether their votes were cast properly. On August 1, 2021, millions of people took to the streets of major cities in Brazil to protest against the apparent lack of transparency in the electronic voting system.[31]

Due in part to the fact that some unelected judges have taken political positions inappropriate and, indeed, inimical to the judicial function, an opinion poll by DataPoder360 and released on June 15, 2020, revealed that the vast majority of Brazilians consider the performance of the judiciary “bad or horrible”. These politically aligned judges are perceived positively by only 23 percent of the population.[32] That result demonstrated yet again that there is a near complete lack of public faith in the judiciary. Brazil in the eyes of those same protesters seems to be on the verge of serious democratic decay, with the failure of the judiciary a critical factor contributing to the declining faith in the rule of law.[33]  Indeed, many Brazilians historically believe that some people, particularly judges and politicians, are never adequately punished for breaking the law, thus corruption and naked judicial partisanship continue to thrive .[34]

This appeared to finally have changed when, in 2017, Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison for widespread corruption and money-laundering. He spent only a year and a half in jail. In 2021, the Supreme Court annulled all these convictions on entirely technical grounds. No court said a word about Lula’s culpability, as demonstrated by three court decisions before a total of nine judges, and in a series of criminal proceedings where there were numerous confessing witnesses and plea bargains. Instead, the court simply stated that the former president should not have been prosecuted in the city of Curitiba, but rather in Brasilia,[35] thus restoring Lula’s political rights and enabling him to contest this year’s presidential election.[36] In a January 10 interview, Bolsonaro accused these judges of “wanting Lula to be president”. Then he asked rhetorically: “They might not want to vote for me, but do they want to return to office the man who robbed the nation for eight years?” [37]

Alexandre de Moraes is the Supreme Court justice who was appointed as the nation’s top electoral officer in August 2022 at a public ceremony before 2,000 guests in the court’s auditorium.[38] Prior to this, in April 2005, he was appointed by the then-president Lula to join the first composition (biennium 2005-2007) of the National Council of Justice (CNJ). From 2002 to 2005 he served as the Secretary of Justice and Defense of Citizenship of São Paulo state under Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate for vice-president on Lula’s presidential ticket who had previously served as the Governor of São Paulo from 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2011 to 2018. Moraes also held the important post of Public Security Secretary under Governor Alckmin, from 2014 to 2016. As reported by the French daily Le Monde, seven years ago he was at the centre of a controversy when the daily Estadão[39] published an investigation showing that he had intervened as a lawyer in at least 123 legal cases to defend a corporation (Transcooper) suspected of being linked to Brazil’s main drug trafficking group, the First Command of the Capital (PCC).[40]

During the entire campaign this year, Justice Moraes, as the nation’s top electoral judge, ordered social-media networks to remove thousands of posts and jailed numerous Bolsonaro supporters without trial for posts that he claims “attacked Brazil’s institutions”, namely his own court.[41] He also issued numerous “monocratic decisions” against “misinformation”, in addition to sending some of Bolsonaro’s friends and supporters to jail, confiscating their electronic devices and freezing their bank accounts.[42] He seemed to take particular pleasure in censoring political supporters of the President, even to the extent of opening an inquiry concerning alleged “fake news”. One of the materials censored by Justice Moraes refers to a 2018 federal police inquiry into how hackers might have attacked the computers of the Superior Electoral Tribunal. “This is not fake news. One, even, stole the password of a judge”, Bolsonaro says.[43]

Bolsonaro relied on the Telegram app to reach his voter base.[44] He has more than a million followers on the platform and this could prove crucial to his electoral campaign. While the current president’s Telegram page has more than 1 million followers, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the far-left candidate to October’s elections, has only 48 thousand. However, on March 18, Justice Moraes ordered the nationwide suspension of Telegram.[45] The ruling came after Telegram apparently ignored an earlier order to block the account of Allan dos Santos, a supporter of Bolsonaro who faced the standard accusation of “spreading “misinformation”.[46]

In his monocratic ruling suspending Telegram nationwide, Justice Moraes mentions its failing to remove “misleading” content from Bolsonaro’s own Telegram page.[47] As mentioned above, not only did Moraes shut down of the message app nationwide, he also ordered Apple and Google to introduce “technological obstacles” to block Telegram on their operating systems and withdraw it from their digital stores in Brazil.[48]  On March 19, during the popular television program Os Pingos nos Is (‘Dot the I’s, cross the T’s)  journalist Augusto Nunes accused this judge of several illegalities, including the abuse of authority and the violation of a cláusula pétrea (“stone clause”) in the Brazilian Constitution that makes freedom of expression an inalienable right.[49]  Nunes also criticized the silence of politicians about Moraes’ “authoritarian decisions”, including the nationwide banning of Telegram.[50]

On May 27, 2020, Moraes ordered the federal police to launch an operation probing businessmen, bloggers and politicians allied to President Bolsonaro.[51] In the decision that authorised the operation, he determined the blocking of all their accounts on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.[52] The investigation conducted by him concerned more generally the dissemination of “misinformation” about the transparency of voting machines and the credibility of the electoral tribunal headed by Moraes himself.  Special Advisor to the Presidency of the Republic for International Affairs, Filipe Martins, stated on the occasion that “journalists, comedians and ordinary citizens who act spontaneously were treated as criminals for daring to express opinions that displease the establishment”.[53] Among the targets of police actions ordered by Moraes were the national president of the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PTB), Roberto Jefferson, businessman Luciano Hang and congresspersons Douglas Garcia, Gil Diniz, Carla Zambelli, Bia Kicis, Junio ​​Amaral, Filipe Barros and Luiz Phillipe Orleans e Bragança, and Daniel Silveira.[54] One of these parliamentarians, Carla Zambelli, said that “every person who respects the law has the obligation to repudiate these searches within the scope of an illegal and unconstitutional investigation.”[55] By the same token, another congresswoman, Bia Kicis, stated:

“We are living in dark times of brazen attack on democracy. Don’t forget the people who are celebrating the abuses of authority and undemocratic acts by Justice Alexandre de Moraes against journalists, comedians, businessmen and any other common people. They are accomplices of the dictatorship. I have never been silent against tyranny or opponents”.[56]

On August 23, Moraes directed the federal police to execute search warrants in five states targeting at least eight businessmen.[57] He ordered police to raid their homes, to access their bank accounts, and to suspend their social media accounts. These law-abiding citizens were investigated over a couple of messages posted in their WhatsApp group whereby some dared to say they would prefer another military regime to the return of the far-left candidate Lula da Silva to the presidency.[58] Justice Moraes then immediately ordered all their bank accounts blocked.[59]  One of those targeted by the operation was Luciano Hang, the founder of retail chain Havan and a Bolsonaro supporter with millions of followers on social media. Although Hang categorically states that he has “never spoken of a coup” and he has “always defended democracy and freedom of expression”, Moraes still ordered the blocking of all his social media accounts, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and TikTok.[60]  Other businessmen who reportedly had their social media and bank accounts blocked include Meyer Joseph Nigri, chairman and former CEO of property developer Tecnisa; Jose Isaac Peres, founder of shopping mall company Multiplan; and Afranio Barreira Filho, owner of restaurant chain Coco Bambu.[61]

During his talk in the 9th Lisbon Legal Forum in Portugal, on November 16, 2021, Supreme Court justice Dias Toffoli commented that “presiding over Brazil is not easy ….[62]  We already have a semi-presidentialism with a moderating power control that is currently exercised by the Supreme Court”, he said.[63] Of course, the system of government in Brazil, as per its Constitution, remains entirely presidential. This supposed “moderating power” is found only in the creative minds of such activist judges. It amounts, in practice, to a usurpation of government powers derived from the people by an unelected judicial oligarchy.  On February 21, 2021, Justice Gilmar Mendes of the Supreme Court met the then-president of the House of Representatives, Rodrigo Maia, and ten other federal congressmen, to discuss what they should do about the Brazilian president. He told these politicians that ending any “kindness” towards the democratically elected leader was urgently required, with Justice Mendes proposing “a harsher attack” on President Bolsonaro. He wanted “zero tolerance” for the head of the executive branch.[64] To give another example, in May 2021, Celso de Mello, then the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, sent a text message to his judicial peers comparing the Bolsonaro to Adolf Hitler. He informed his court colleagues that it was “necessary to fight Bolsonaro”.[65]

The process to appoint Supreme Court justices in Brazil is practically identical to that in the United States. These top judges are nominated to the court by the President and then must be approved by an absolute majority of the Senate after a confirmation hearing. However, the last four years in Brazil have been characterised by a remarkable rise of judicial activism. A question often raised is whether judges in Brazil are becoming an entrenched oligarchy devoid of any accountability.[66] In many cases, says an article in The New York Times,

Justice Moraes has acted unilaterally, emboldened by new powers the court granted itself in 2019 that allow it to, in effect, act as an investigator, prosecutor and judge all at once.[67] 

says Marco Aurélio Mello, a former Supreme Court justice who last year reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, “It is an unprecedent role, turning the court in some cases into the accuser and the judge.” Of course, it would be incredibly unwise for Brazilians to return a notoriously corrupt politician to the presidency of their nation. It is very hard to believe they would be so morally bankrupt to reward a notorious far-left politician, Lula da Silva, who would then be able to finish the job he had started of turning Brazil into another Cuba or Venezuela.[68]  So, was there a fair and transparent presidential election in Brazil? After all, as two U.S. journalists recently stated in The New York Times, “the court’s expanding influence could have major implications for the winner of the presidential vote”.[69]

Having been made aware all these extraordinary things, the violations of democratic propriety, who would dare call that Brazil’s election fair and transparent? The European Union for one, which released on Monday a statement praising Brazil for ‘the effective and transparent manner it conducted its constitutional mandate throughout all stages of the electoral process, demonstrating once again the strength of Brazil’s institutions and its democracy’.”[70]

Moreover, the US Senate has unanimously approved a resolution recommending the suspension of US-Brazil relations if there is any questioning of the security and transparency of electronic voting in Brazil, “otherwise the U.S. must consider its relations with the Brazilian government and suspend cooperation programs, including in the military area”, says the resolution.[71] No senator, including Republicans, opposed the text presented by senators Tim Kaine and Bernie Sanders.[72] According to Michael Kinley, former U.S Ambassador to Brazil (2017-2018), “[Brazilians] have built up strong electoral tribunals that supervise elections, work with state governments, state electoral officials in a centralized system that commands tremendous credibility”. That is “backstopped”, he continued, “by a Supreme Court that enforces the rules”.[73] As for how this Supreme Court “backstops” the enforcement of these rules, Newsweek’s journalist Jack Dutton comments:

One of the justices, Alexandre de Moraes, jailed the head of a party allied with the nationalist president as part of a probe on alleged online misinformation and anti-democratic threats. He also opened a probe on Bolsonaro for allegedly posting confidential material on social media to try and prove an allegation of election fraud. The other justice, Luis Roberto Barroso, has been a vociferous opponent of Bolsonaro’s fraud claims over the upcoming election.[74]

As can be seen, it will be hard to agree with the good ambassador about the “tremendous credibility” of electoral judges who command of the country’s electoral process. To the contrary, a question currently being raised in Brazil is whether or not its judicial elite has now become an entrenched political oligarchy devoid of any accountability. Of course, this goes without saying that the CIA and the U.S. military are justly notorious for undermining democratically elected governments in Latin America.  

So, was there a fair and transparent presidential election in Brazil? I certainly have no reason to think so — nor do millions of other Brazilians turning out to protest.

Augusto Zimmermann is professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education, in Perth, Western Australia. He was born in Brazil and completed his LLB and LLM with cum laude at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. In January 2002, he emigrated to Australia, completing a PhD in Legal Philosophy at Monash University in 2006. In 2007, Dr Zimmermann was invited to join Murdoch University Law School where, among other things, he served as Director of Postgraduate Research (2011-2012 and 2015-2017) and Associate Dean, Research (2010-2012). During his time at Murdoch, Dr Zimmermann was awarded the University’s Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2012. He is a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017), and President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA). Dr Zimmermann is the author of numerous academic articles in books, including ‘Curso de Direito Constitucional’ (4th ed., Lumen Juris, 2006, 783 pp) and ‘Direito Constitucional Brasileiro – Volumes 1 & 2’ Lumen Juris, 2015, 1,000 pp).


[1] John Otis, ‘Government Corruption at New Heights in Brazil’, Houston Chronicle, 16 October 2005, at http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/headline/world/3399089

[2] J.R. Guzzo, ‘De Volta à Cena do Crime’, Revista Oeste, 31 October 2022, at https://revistaoeste.com/revista/edicao-136/de-volta-a-cena-do-crime/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Tom Porter, ‘Western leaders rushed to recognise Bolsonaro’s defeat in Brazil to head off any Trump-like attempt to stay in power, experts say’, Business Insider, 31 October 2022, at https://www.businessinsider.in/politics/world/news/western-leaders-rushed-to-recognise-bolsonaros-defeat-in-brazil-to-head-off-any-trump-like-attempt-to-stay-in-power-experts-say/amp_articleshow/95207961.cmshttps://www.businessinsider.in/politics/world/news/western-leaders-rushed-to-recognise-bolsonaros-defeat-in-brazil-to-head-off-any-trump-like-attempt-to-stay-in-power-experts-say/amp_articleshow/95207961.cms

[5] Ibid.

[6] Robbie Gramer, ‘How Team Biden Tried to Coup-Proof Brazil’s Elections’, Foreign Policy, 28 October 2022, at https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/10/28/brazil-elections-bolsonaro-democracy-biden/

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Porter, above n. 4.

[10] Thomas Korontai, ‘Brazil é o único país com urna eletrônica sem contraprova física’, Convergencias, June 15, 208, at https://convergencias.org.br/a-bem-da-verdade-brasil-e-o-unico-pais-com-urna-eletronica-sem-contraprova-fisica/

[11] ‘Electronic voting technology: pros & cons’, PaySpace, November 2, 2022, at https://payspacemagazine.com/tech/electronic-voting-technology-pros-cons/

[12] Jack Dutton, ‘Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rallies See Country Heading for Its Own January 6’, Newsweek, 8 September 2021, at https://www.newsweek.com/brazils-bolsonaro-rallies-see-country-heading-its-own-january-6-1626989

[13] Frederico Rocha Ferreira, ‘Urnas Eletrônicas sem impressão do voto são um risco à democracia?’, Jusbrasil, at https://fredericorochaferreira.jusbrasil.com.br/artigos/1260615589/urnas-eletronicas-sem-impressao-do-voto-sao-um-risco-a-democracia

[14] Rebecca Mercuri PhD, ‘Facts About Voter Verified Paper Ballots’, February 23, 2004, at  http://www.notablesoftware.com/Papers/VVPBFacts.pdf

[15] ‘Elections: Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, But Key Activities Need To Be Completed’, Government Accountability Office (GAO), October 21, 2005, at https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-05-956

[16] Ellen Theisen, ‘Myth Breakers, Facts About Electronic Elections’ (2006), at http://www.votersunite.org/mb2.pdf

[17] ‘Brazil é o único país com urna eletrônica sem contraprova física’, Convergencias, June 15, 208, at https://convergencias.org.br/a-bem-da-verdade-brasil-e-o-unico-pais-com-urna-eletronica-sem-contraprova-fisica/

[18] Aviel D. Rubin et al, ‘An Analysis of an Electronic Voting System’, John Hopkins University, February 27, 2004, at https://avirubin.com/vote.pdf

[19] Mercuri, above n.14.  

[20] Frederico Rocha Ferreira, ‘Urnas Eletrônicas sem impressão do voto são um risco à democracia?’, Jusbrasil, at https://fredericorochaferreira.jusbrasil.com.br/artigos/1260615589/urnas-eletronicas-sem-impressao-do-voto-sao-um-risco-a-democracia

[21] Tiago Albuquerque, ‘Delegados afirmam que só aparecia o número 13 em urna de Porto Velho’, Jusbrasil, at https://tiagoalbuquerque.jusbrasil.com.br/noticias/143481945/delegados-afirmam-que-so-aparecia-o-numero-13-em-urna-de-porto-velho

[22] Tiago Albuquerque, ‘Urna eletrônica é falha, alerta MP’, Jusbrasil, at https://tiagoalbuquerque.jusbrasil.com.br/noticias/143481949/urna-eletronica-e-falha-alerta-mp

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Guilherme Petry, O dia em que o TSE revelou o código da urna: a história de Diego Aranha’, The Hack, https://thehack.com.br/o-dia-que-o-tse-revelou-o-codigo-da-urna-a-historia-de-diego-aranha/

[26] ‘Teste feito por equipe da Unicamp revelou falhas de segurança nas urnas eletrônicas’, Senado Notícias, March 6, 2022, at https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2018/03/06/teste-feito-por-equipe-da-unicamp-revelou-falhas-de-seguranca-nas-urnas-eletronica

[27] Ibid.

[28] Gustavo Maia, ‘Barroso participa de evento nos EUA sobre com se livrar de um presidente’, Revista Veja, 18 February 2022, at  https://veja.abril.com.br/coluna/radar/barroso-participa-de-evento-nos-eua-sobre-como-se-livrar-de-um-presidente/.

[29] ‘Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso Delivers Talk for CLAS on Brazilian Democracy’, Center for Latin American Studies – The University of Chicago, 19th January 2022, at https://clas.uchicago.edu/content/supreme-court-justice-lu%C3%ADs-roberto-barroso-delivers-talk-clas-brazilian-democracy

[30] Ashley, ‘Media Talks in Oxford, Barroso defends the professional press and is attacked by a print vote’, June 25, 2022, at https://newsrebeat.com/world-news/55182.html

[31] Simone Preissler Iglesias and Andrew Rosati, ‘Jair Bolsonaro wages Trump-like campaign to sow doubt over voting in Brazil’, The Japan Times, 13 July 2021, at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/07/13/world/brazil-voting-bolsonaro/

[32] ‘STF e bem avaliado por 23% dos brasileiros; 26% acham ruim ou pessimo’, Poder360, 15 June 2022, at https://www.poder360.com.br/brasil/stf-e-bem-avaliado-por-23-dos-brasileiros-26-acham-ruim-ou-pessimo/

[33] William Prillaman, The Judiciary and Democratic Decay in Latin America (Praeger, 2002) p 76.

[34] Ibid.

[35] J.R. Guzzo, ‘Fachin agiu como um militante político empenhado em servir a Lula e ao PT’, Jovem Pam, 13 March 2021, at https://jovempan.com.br/opiniao-jovem-

[36] Igor Carvalho, ‘Understand the decision that annuls Lula’s sentences and the Brazilian political game’, Brasil De Fato, 9 March 2022, at https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2021/03/09/understand-the-decision-that-annuls-lula-s-sentences-and-the-brazilian-political-game

[37] ‘Brazil’s Bolsonaro accuses Supreme Court justices of partisanship’, Al Jazeera, 12 January 2022, at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/12/brazil-bolsonaro-accuses-supreme-court-justices-of-partisanship

[38] Alexandre de Moraes, ‘Ministro Alexandre de Moraes toma posse como presidente to TSE’, Agência Brasil, 16 August 2022, at https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/justica/noticia/2022-08/ministro-alexandre-de-moraes-toma-posse-como-presidente-do-tse

[39] Edgar Maciel and Marcelo Godoy, ‘Novo secretário de Alckmin defende cooperative de van’, Estadão, January 9, 2015, at https://sao-paulo.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,novo-secretario-de-alckmin-defende-cooperativa-de-van,1617265

[40] ‘Brésil: le juge Alexandre de Moraes, bête noire de Bolsonaro’, Le Monde, 15 October 2022, at https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/10/15/bresil-le-juge-alexandre-de-moraes-bete-noire-de-bolsonaro_6098546_3210.html

[41] Jack Nicas and André Spigariol, ‘To Defend Democracy, Is Brazil’s Top Court Going Too Far?’, The New York Times, September 26, 2022, at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/26/world/americas/bolsonaro-brazil-supreme-court.html

[42] ‘Bolsonaro Pardons Silveira One Day After His Conviction’, MercoPress, 22 April 2022, at https://en.mercopress.com/2022/04/22/bolsonaro-pardons-silveira-one-day-after-his-conviction

[43] Luana Patriolino, ‘Bolsonaro Volta a Atacar o Judiciario e diz que Fachin foi advogado do MST’, Correio Braziliense, 27 May 2022, at https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/politica/2022/05/5011215-bolsonaro-volta-a-atacar-o-judiciario-e-diz-que-fachin-foi-advogado-do-mst.html

[44] ‘Brazil: Telegram messaging app blocked by top court’, DW (Deutche Welle), 19 March 2022, at https://www.dw.com/en/brazil-telegram-messaging-app-blocked-by-top-court/a-61183805

[45] Ibid.

[46] Yogesh Sahu, ‘Brazil Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes Bans Messaging App Telegram for Ignoring Rule’, PiPa News, 19 March 2022, at https://pipanews.com/brazil-supreme-court-judge-justice-alexandre-de-moraes-bans-messaging-app-telegram-for-ignoring-ruling/

[47] ‘Brazil judge bans messaging app Telegram for ignoring ruling’, The Economic Times, 19 March 2022, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/brazil-judge-bans-messaging-app-telegram-for-ignoring-ruling/articleshow/90325739.cms?from=mdr

[48] Bryan Harris and Michael Pooler, ‘Brazil’s supreme court blocks messaging app Telegram’, Financial Times, 19 March 2022, at https://www.ft.com/content/ff094139-b411-4850-95f7-051e3676736f

[49] ‘‘O vilão dessa história é Alexandre de Moraes’, diz Augusto Nunes’, Revista Oeste, 19 March 2022, at https://revistaoeste.com/brasil/o-vilao-dessa-historia-e-alexandre-de-moraes/

[50] Ibid.

[51] ‘Polícia Federal faz buscas em endereços de Roberto Jefferson, Luciano Hang e blogueiros’, G1 Globo, 27 May 2020, at https://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2020/05/27/pf-cumpre-mandados-em-inquerito-do-stf-sobre-fake-news.ghtml

[52] Ibid.

[53] Augusto Fernandes, ‘Censura, ditadura e vergonha: bolsonaristas reagem a ação da PF’, Correio Braziliense, 27 May 2020, at https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2020/05/27/interna_politica,858701/censura-ditadura-e-vergonha-bolsonaristas-reagem-a-acao-da-pf.shtml

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] ‘Bolsonaro condemns raids over Brazil’, Macau News Agency, August 27, 2022, at https://www.macaubusiness.com/bolsonaro-condemns-raids-over-brazil-coup-plot/

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Chaheti Singh Sisodia, ‘Pro-Bolsonaro businessmen accused of coup talk raided by Brazilian people’, WION, August 24, 2022, at https://www.wionews.com/world/pro-bolsonaro-businessmen-accused-of-coup-talk-raided-by-brazilian-police-509601

[61] Macau News Agency, above n. 57.

[62] ‘Justice Toffoli says Brazil is experiencing semi-presidentialism with STF as a moderating power’, Folha de S. Paulo, 17 November 2021, at https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/brazil/2020/06/supreme-court-justice-compares-brazil-to-hitlers-germany-and-says-bolsonaro-supporters-want-abject-dictatorship.shtml

[62] ‘Justice Toffoli says Brazil is experiencing semi-presidentialism with STF as a moderating power’, The Rio Times, 17 November 2021, at https://www.riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-politics/justice-toffoli-says-brazil-is-experiencing-semi-presidentialism-with-stf-as-moderating-power/

[63] Ibid.

[64] ‘STF Justice Gilmar Mendes Advocates Harsher Attack Against Bolsonaro’, The Rio Times, 24 February 2020, at https://www.riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/brazil/gilmar-mendes-advocates-harsher-attack-against-bolsonaro/?__cf_chl_tk=o.wdAphpyEhPk8WVmK980IGWyq5OWTy.tqm_kRAHRIs-1656928196-0-gaNycGzNCWU

[65] ‘STF Justice Celso de Mello Likens Brazil to Hitler’s Germany’, The Rio Times, 1 June 2020, at

[66] ‘Bolsonaro Pardons Silveira One Day After His Conviction’, MercoPress, 22 April 2022, at https://en.mercopress.com/2022/04/22/bolsonaro-pardons-silveira-one-day-after-his-conviction

[67] Jack Nicas and André Spigariol, ‘To Defend Democracy, Is Brazil’s Top Court Going Too Far?’, The New York Times, September 26, 2022, at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/26/world/americas/bolsonaro-brazil-supreme-court.html

[68] John Otis, ‘Government Corruption at New Heights in Brazil’, The Houston Chronicle, 16 October 2005, at http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/headline/world/3399089

[69] Nicas and Spigariol, above n. 67.

[70] Porter, above n.4. https://www.businessinsider.in/politics/world/news/western-leaders-rushed-to-recognise-bolsonaros-defeat-in-brazil-to-head-off-any-trump-like-attempt-to-stay-in-power-experts-say/amp_articleshow/95207961.cms

[71] ‘U.S. Senate unanimously approves resolution in defense of democracy in Brazil’, WBO (Washington Brazil Office), September 28, 2022, at https://www.braziloffice.org/press-releases/us-senate-unanimously-approves-resolution-in-defense-of-democracy-in-brazil

[72] Ibid.

[73] Gramer, above n.6.

[74] Dutton, above n.12.

10 thoughts on “How They Count Votes in Brazil

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    November 4, 2022
    My sympathies, Mr. Zimmermann. As an American, I have severe doubts about the validity of the occupier of my own country’s presidential mansion.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Very informative piece Augusto, thank you.
    I’ve scrutineered many times at our elections and the paper ballot is the one and only free and fair way of conducting an election….bar none.
    Hackers can get into ANYTHING these days and I repeat ANYTHING. The real crooks have won in Brasil and the man trying to sort out and drain it’s swamp has lost……by a whisker, just the same as in the USA.
    The silly polies coming out and congratulating a crook like Lulu show their true Neo-Marxist type colours in my eyes, although I’m a bit supprised to see the the British Prime Minister doing it so quickly….if I can call him that now…… and poor old sleepy Joe probably doesn’t know WHO won…..just so long as he thinks Bolsonaro lost.

    • lbloveday says:

      “…the paper ballot is the one and only free and fair way of conducting an election….bar none”.
      Unfortunately it’s not enough to ensure a fair election as it does not ensure that only those entitled to fill in the paper ballot do so.
      Apart from the well-published rorts such as voting multiple times and, or, under another’s name – one can go to a polling booth at opening time, give one’s neighbour’s name and address and vote under his name, with or without his knowledge, before he arrives; one can go to each polling booth in one’s electorate, voting at each, up to 60, under one’s name, one’s neighbour’s, or someone else’s, provided one is prepared to answer “no” to the inane question “Have you voted elsewhere today?” – and enrolling under multiple names prior to the 16 April 2007 requirement to provide ID on enrollment, the events in the 1980 Norwood, SA, by-election made me determined to not take part in such a corrupt system no matter what the cost.
      The Norwood, SA, 1979 state election result (won by Frank Webster, Liberal) was overturned by a court decision, and a by-election held 16/2/1980. In the few months between the general election and the by-election, the Norwood electoral roll numbers increased by 10%. The vast majority were not newly turned 18yos, new residents, or people who had omitted to enroll by the previous cut-off date, they were election riggers – people from outside Norwood, typically Left-wing UofA students, who had voted in another electorate in the general election and who changed their enrolled, but not physical, address to vote again.
      There were up to 22 people enrolled at the one address, but the Electoral Commission did nothing despite being given proof. So my neighbour, Greg Crafter, ALP, romped in, and I was shortly after removed from the electoral roll, never to return.
      More recently, as reported in “The Advertiser”, a SA family claimed to have voted 159 times, including 31 times by a 17 year old, in a recent election. Even the AEC, which in the past has buried its head in the sand conceded it is possible, and if it’s possible, it is done, with only the extent being in question.

  • ianl says:

    Augusto Zimmerman has written here an accurate account of likely electoral corruption deliberately engineered in ongoing fashion by untouchable lawyers. I share his contempt for these narcissists.

    Apart from bloody revolution, which no-one can win and then assume peace, there is nothing to be done about this corruption. The Western left, in power almost everywhere, has decreed that this be so. Resistance is met with vicious thuggery.

    One wonders without advocation whether this may be sufficient perhaps, eventually to cause the advent of a Brazilian equivalent to the ancient Sicarii. A very slippery slope manufactured by narcissistic lawyers irrevocably infected with powerlust.

  • rosross says:

    Brazil is Third World corruption writ large on all counts. Not surprising.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    We should know why Joe Biden was so concerned about challenges to electronic voting; he was the recipient of many illegal votes allowable only because machines can be manipulated The 81 million vote man that cannot get 100 people to a rally and most of those are fawning press. It is to be hoped that the people of Brazil are incensed enough to take the Presidency by force and make life for the corrupt judiciary as uncomfortable as possible.

  • AndrewC says:

    Great article thanks, scary how even the president can be brought down by corrupt forces within a country

  • john mac says:

    The speed of light responses from the other world “leaders” says everything , really . I’m sure Ardern and Albo sent their best wishes post haste , too .

  • DougD says:

    After reading Zimmerman, I’ve read Lia Timmons piece in The Age and the many comments. I wonder how long it will be before Labor proposes we move to a world-class super-efficient electronic voting system instead of the 19th century system we now have. After all, Labor has an interest in improving the electoral process – preferential voting works so well as do four year terms.

  • padraic says:

    DougD, it is already happening. I understand in the last local election in Canberra they trialled an electronic voting system alongside the traditional paper system which resulted in a large unexpected number of Greens being elected

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