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Brazil’s electoral agency rejects Bolsonaro’s push to nullify votes

RIO DE JANEIRO — The head of Brazil’s electoral authority has rejected a request by President Jair Bolsonaro’s political party to void ballots cast on most electronic voting machines, which would have voided the Oct. 30 election.

Alexandre de Moraes had issued a preliminary decision which implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party would suffer from such a challenge. He conditioned the analysis of the request on the presentation of a report amended to include the results of the first electoral round, on October 2, in which the party won more seats in both houses of Congress than any other, and he set a 24-hour deadline. .

Earlier Wednesday, party chairman Valdemar Costa and lawyer Marcelo de Bessa held a press conference and said there would be no amended report.

“The complete bad faith of the plaintiff’s bizarre and illicit request (…) has been proven, both by the refusal to complete the initial request and by the total absence of any evidence of irregularities and the existence of a totally fraudulent account of the facts,” de Moraes wrote in his decision a few hours later.

He also ordered the suspension of government funds for the Liberal Party coalition until a fine of 23 million reais ($4.3 million) for litigation in bad faith is paid.

On Tuesday, de Bessa filed a 33-page claim on behalf of Bolsonaro and Costa citing a software bug in the majority of Brazilian machines — they lack individual identification numbers in their internal logs — to argue that all votes that they recorded should be cancelled. De Bessa said that would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of valid votes remaining.

Neither Costa nor de Bessa explained how the bug could have affected the election results. Independent experts consulted by The Associated Press said that although newly discovered, it does not affect reliability and each voting machine is still easily identifiable by other means. In his decision, de Moraes noted the same.

He also wrote that the challenge to the vote appeared to be aimed at inciting anti-democratic protests and creating uproar, and ordered the investigation of Costa and the consultant hired to conduct an assessment.

“De Moraes’ message to the political establishment is: the game is over. Questioning the election result is not fair play, and people and institutions who do so will be severely punished,” said Maurício Santoro, professor of political science at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Costa said his intention was simply to prevent the results of the 2022 vote from haunting Brazil in the future.

The electoral authority on October 30 ratified the victory of Bolsonaro’s nemesis, the leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies were quick to accept the results. Protesters in cities across the country have staunchly refused to do the same, especially with Bolsonaro refusing to concede.

Bolsonaro has spent more than a year claiming that Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, without ever presenting evidence.

The South American nation began using an electronic voting system in 1996 and election security experts consider such systems to be less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no verifiable paper trail. But Brazil’s system has come under scrutiny from national and international experts who have never found evidence that it was being exploited to commit fraud.


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