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

By DAVID BILLER, Associated Press

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

Alexandre de Moraes had issued a previous ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party could face such a challenge. It conditioned the analysis of the request on the presentation of a report modified to include the results of the first electoral round, on October 2, in which the party won more seats in both chambers of Congress than any other, and established a deadline for 24 hours. .

Earlier on Wednesday, party president 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 strange and illegal request was proven…, both by the refusal to expand the initial request and by the total absence of evidence of irregularities and the existence of a totally fraudulent narrative of the facts,” of Moraes wrote in his decision hours later.

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

On Tuesday, de Bessa filed a 33-page petition on behalf of Bolsonaro and Costa citing a software bug in most of Brazil’s machines (they lack individual identification numbers in their internal records) to argue that all the votes they recorded they should be cancelled. De Bessa said doing so would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes.

Neither Costa nor de Bessa have explained how the error could have affected the election results. Independent experts consulted by The Associated Press said that while it was recently discovered, it does not affect reliability and each voting machine can still be easily identified by other means. In his ruling, de Moraes pointed out the same thing.

He also wrote that the contestation of the vote appeared to be aimed at fueling anti-democratic protest movements and creating riot, and ordered Costa’s investigation and the consultant hired to conduct an assessment.

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

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

The electoral authority ratified the victory of Bolsonaro’s nemesis, former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on Oct. 30, and even many of the president’s allies were quick to accept the results. Protesters in cities across the country have adamantly refused to do the same, particularly with Bolsonaro refusing to budge.

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

The South American nation began using an electronic voting system in 1996, and election security experts consider such systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. But Brazil’s system has been closely scrutinized by national and international experts who have never found evidence that it is being exploited to commit fraud.

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