2014 Elections: programs installed in electronic voting machines to be closely checked

2014 Elections: programs installed in electronic voting machines to be closely checked.

Political parties, the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) and the Prosecution Office (MP) may check all computer programs installed in electronic voting machines for voting, vote-counting and result-drafting purposes during the General Elections of 2014. Such programs are owned by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), and are either developed by Court´s experts or designed by third parties upon Court´s order. Checking procedures are to be carried out at Room A-361, located at TSE´s main office building in Brasília, until the day before the Ceremony of Digital Signature and Sealing of Electoral Systems, which will be held later this year, on September 15-17.

Both the TSE Resolution on electoral calendar and the Elections Act (Law N. 9,504/1997, Article 66, Paragraph 1) establish that all computer programs used during the elections are to be presented to political parties and the aforementioned institutions. Computer programs used by Electoral Courts undergo technological improvements at each election. Presently, all computer programs and commands installed in electronic voting machines are entirely developed by the Superior Electoral Court.

Transparency

The rules of the electoral system are implemented through computer programs developed in a language called “source code”, which, in computing, consists of translating a programming language into a machine language, that is, a source code. These source codes will be disclosed to political parties, the Prosecution Office and the OAB six months before this year´s elections are held. The purpose is to enable these institutions to check whether the system is running as properly as it should.   

During the Ceremony of Digital Signature and Sealing of Electoral Systems, the programs will be compiled and digitally signed by concerned representatives of political parties and coalitions, the OAB and the Prosecution Office, in addition to being tested and digitally signed by the TSE. The final versions of electoral systems will be recorded in non-rewritable media and then physically sealed, and forwarded to the safe-room of the Court, where they will remain stored. The Electoral Court System will be responsible for ensuring that private electronic keys, and electronic access passwords remain confidential and undisclosed.

Next, the digitally signed and sealed electoral systems will be distributed through the private network of the Electoral Courts to the Regional Electoral Courts (TREs). The fact that such programs can only run in the computers of Electoral Courts, being activated by passwords generated by the TSE, consists of another relevant safety measure. Thus, even in the event that the systems get to be intercepted, it is not possible to install and run their files in external computers.

After elections are held, political parties may also check, upon prior scheduling, all source-programs that were used during the event. The access to these programs will also take place at Room A-361, located at TSE´s main office building, and may be carried out until the next election process is held.