Electronic voting machine guarantees safety for the elections

Urna eletrônica

When an election ends, the Electoral Justice already starts to think about the next one.  Those who think that this work happens only in the electoral period, every two years, are mistaken.

The electronic voting machine, for example, passes through many phases before completing the preparation cycle for the election. The focus is always on the safety of the voting machine, guaranteeing that the voter, since the moment in which his vote is registered in the machine, has the certainty that it is being calculated in a safe and trustful way.

Used for the first time almost 22 years ago, in 1996, the electronic voting machine is being constantly improved by technicians of the Information Technology field of TSE.  It is important to emphasize that the proper teams for software development of the Court are the ones that produce and develop all the election’s programs, including those that will be inserted in the electronic voting machine. This process of development begins well before, with the creation of the so-called ecosystem of the voting machine, which is a set of software solutions that allow to support and automate the activities of the device, from the media treatment until the canvas of the section, working as a unit that interacts around the electronic voting machine.

To guarantee more reliability to the voting process, the Electoral Justice opens its doors so that society’s representatives can analyze and verify the authenticity of the systems that will be used in the voting machines.

Six months before the election, these systems can already be examined by the inspector of political parties and technicians from the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), the Supreme Federal Court (STF), the National Congress, the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), the Federal Police, the Office of the Comptroller General, Federal Council of Engineering and Agronomy (CONFEA) and the university departments of Information Technology.

The systems that will be used in the voting machines of the 2018 Elections are already open since April 6th and can be accompanied until September, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., in the subsoil of the main building of TSE.

According to the Adviser of Support to the Administration of TSE Secretariat of Information Technology, Elmano Alves, the initiative is one of the main pillars of the elections, which is to give total transparency to the electoral system developed by the Electoral Justice.

Elmano reinforces the importance of the civil society’s participation in demystifying the false affirmations about the electronic voting machine. “With the social media, fake news about frauds and vulnerability have been spreading,” he said. And highlights:  The participation of the political parties is very important since they are interested in making the inspection and demystifying the falsehoods.  It is an opportunity so that they can accompany and verify if there is a possibility of vulnerability or not.”

Digital Signing and Sealing of the Systems

After the checking and improving phase, the programs that will be used are digitally signed, by the authorities that represent such entities, during the Ceremony of Digital Signing and Sealing of the Systems. 

Soon after the digital signing, digital summaries (hashs) are generated by each developed program, which serves to confirm that the program, which was signed digitally, is the same one that will be used in the elections.  The hashs are sent to the parties, OAB, Department of Justice and are also published in the Website of TSE.  These programs are recorded in non-rewritable media, sealed and stored in a safe in STI, inside the Court.

Almost a month before the elections, the TREs receive the programs that will be used in the voting and canvas.  The courts also perform the Ceremony of Digital Signing and Sealing of the Systems, when it is possible to check the authenticity of the program’s hash, which was installed in TRE with a forwarding by TSE.

After the preparation of the voting machines, their compartments are physically sealed with special seals produced by the National Mint, whose chemical properties prevent any attempt of violation. When the seal is removed, a marking immediately appears and it demonstrates that the seal has been violated.  All the doors, for physical access to the voting machines, are sealed.

After this moment, the voting machines are stored in a place designated by the TRE so that, the day before the elections, they are transported to the voting places.  Any attempt of usage, before that, will be in vain, since the voting machine has systems that only allow them to be used in the programmed moment for the voting.

Finally, another very important security measure is that the electronic voting machine, in any moment, not even in the period for the elections preparation or during voting and the next phase, is connected to any type of net with external communication.  In this way, it is not possible that the data are intercepted or suffer any kind of external attack by hackers.

Public Safety Test

Since 2009, the TSE also performs the Public Safety Test(TPS), which consists in the improvement of safety systems of the voting machine with the help of specialists in the area of Information Technology.  “The safety tests are a new event in the world.  No other country does what the Brazilian Electoral Justice does: open the electoral system, be it computerized or not, so that potential hackers try to break down the safety barriers,” highlights the TSE secretary of Information Technology, Giuseppe Janino.

Beginning from 2015, the TPs became mandatory always in the year before the elections.  Many attributions pointed out by the participants have already been adopted in order to improve even more the safety mechanisms of the voting machine.  The public tests are performed by the TSE as an instrument to help in the continuous improvement of the electoral systems, that is, the assembly of software and hardware used in the elections; and that the Electoral Justice is not interested in promoting any kind of competition or individual promotion of candidates.