On October 7th 2012, Brazil held elections across its 27 states to elect mayors, deputy mayors and city councilors for its 5,568 municipalities. Only the voters from the Federal District, the 21-island archipelago Fernando de Noronha, and those residing abroad were not choosing any representatives. An election of this dimension, which involved setting up the conditions for more than 140 million people to express their opinion, represented a huge challenge for the Tribunal Supremo Eleitoral (TSJ), Brazil’s electoral body. Fortunately, since 1982 Brazil has developed a robust automated voting platform that facilitated the administration of this complex process.
Conducting accurate, efficient, and transparent elections in a country as heavily populated and with such vast territory has always been a daunting challenge. Together with the United States, and India, Brazil was an early adopter of electronic voting. When technology achieved a sufficient level of development, election automation irrupted in the political scene, and quickly became a goal for the TSE. Besides increased transparency and accuracy, speed and logistical solutions were the two most weighted factors by the TSE when deciding to embark on automation.
The adoption of technology has been a rather gradual process. Nowadays it includes four stages of the election: voter authentication, casting of the vote, transmission, and tallying of the results. The latter three are fully automated.
Voter Identification, a crucial stage in the electoral cycle has been increasingly automated by means of a biometric fingerprint-based system. These machines were included into the voting platform with the purpose of avoiding voter impersonation or having a person vote multiple times. They were used for the first time in only three Brazilian cities in the 2008 municipal elections. Two years later, their use was extended to 60 municipalities. Last weekend, 7.7 million voters in 299 municipalities were authenticated biometrically. Brazil expects to use biometric identification for the entirety of its electoral roll by 2018. By then, the South American giant will achieve an end-to-end automated process, and will join Venezuela, as one of the nations leading the way in election automation.