Voting and the Brazilian Election System

There are a couple of things pretty much every brazilian will throw at any gringo given the situation: they’ll politely remind you our capital is not Buenos Aires, and they’ll rave about the “flawless” electronic voting system put into place years ago.

I don’t have anything to say about our capital, really, Brasilia is a nice place, but that it hosts one of the country’s most respected universities, UnB, where Pedro Antonio Dourado Rezende (pt_BR link) is a professor.

He’s one of those fanatical guys who seems to know too much about too much stuff, and his recent work on security has been widely recognized. And this is where we get back to the electoral system in Brazil. If you are interested in the subject, or security in general, I can’t recommend the RSA Cryptobytes enough, particularly volume 7, out last fall (PDF link), which has an article from Rezende on this matter.

Quote from the abstract:

Rezende argues that many of the criticisms levelled against voter-verifiable paper ballots, such as the criticism that voter-verifiable paper ballots favor vote-selling, are just plain wrong.

After reading the article, I understand and perfectly agree that arguing that voter-verifiable paper trails do not favour selling votes (after all, the voters don’t have phisical access to the paper trail, it’s only displayed to them through a window). But it’s not just the machine or the presence of a paper trail that favours or not selling votes.

The general state of affairs in Brazil, and that probably relates to other countries as well - the US, perhaps? - is that no matter who gets elected, things aren’t going to change much, so few really mean to bother about it. Many choose the candidate with the best hair, or stick to a party and vote for it every time, ignoring any possible scandals, no matter how large.

Voting is mandatory in Brazil, mind you, and some people are so hopeless and live in such heart-breaking conditions they wouldn’t really bother to vote for whoever offers them some cash, jobs, food, water or whatever corrupt politicians use to buy people these days. People make jokes about Santa Claus being more realistic than the idea of a honest politician. And not even the fools laugh for too long at that.