Bolsonaro contests Brazil election loss, wants votes voided

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – More than three weeks after losing his re-election bid, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday blamed a software bug and asked the election authority to void votes cast by most of Brazil’s electronic voting machines, even as independent experts said the error does not affect the reliability of the results.

Such action would leave Bolsonaro with 51 percent of the remaining valid votes — and a re-election victory, Marcelo de Besa, the lawyer who filed the 33-page request on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party, told reporters.

Electoral authorities have already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, especially with Bolsonaro refusing to concede.

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia that their assessment showed that all machines dating from before 2020 — nearly 280,000 of them, or about 59% of the total used in the Oct. 30 runoff — they have no individual identification. numbers in internal logs.

Neither explained how that might affect the election results, but said they asked the election authority to void all votes cast on those machines.

The complaint characterized the error as an “irreparable non-compliance due to a defect” that called into question the authenticity of the results.

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Immediately afterwards, the head of the electoral authority issued a ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s own party could suffer from such a challenge.

Alexandre de Moraes said the court would not consider the appeal unless the party offered an amended report within 24 hours, which would include the results of the first round of elections on October 2, in which the Liberal Party won more seats in both houses of Congress than anyone else.

Creomar de Souza, a political analyst at Dharma Political Risk and Strategy, said the wording of De Moraes’ ruling indicates that the electoral court is likely to reject the appeal.

The error was not known before, but experts say it also does not affect the results. Each voting machine can still be easily identified by other means, such as its city and voting district, according to Wilson Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo.

Diego Arana, an associate professor of system security at Aarhus University in Denmark who participated in official security tests of Brazil’s election system, agrees.

“It doesn’t undermine credibility or credibility in any way,” Ruggiero told The Associated Press by phone. “The key point that guarantees correctness is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.”

Although the machines do not have individual identification numbers in their internal logs, those numbers appear on printed receipts that show the sum of all votes cast for each candidate, Aranha said, adding that the error was discovered only because of the electoral authority’s efforts to ensure greater transparency.

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Bolsonaro’s defeat by less than two points to da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest of margins since the return of Brazilian democracy in 1985. Although the president did not explicitly call foul, he refused to admit defeat or to congratulate my opponent – leaving room for supporters to draw their own conclusions.

Many protested relentlessly, alleging electoral fraud and calling for the armed forces to intervene.

Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside a press conference on Tuesday, wearing the green and yellow flag of Brazil and singing patriotic songs. Some verbally attacked and pushed journalists who were trying to enter the venue.

Bolsonaro has spent more than a year pushing for Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to deception, without presenting any evidence at all.

The president’s son, federal lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, echoed those concerns at a conference in Mexico last week.

“We always didn’t trust these machines. … We want a massive revision,” the younger Bolsonaro said. “There is very strong evidence to order an investigation into the Brazilian election.

Brazil 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 paper trail for auditing. But the Brazilian system has been scrutinized by domestic and international experts who have never found evidence that it was used to commit fraud.

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Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said Tuesday afternoon that the election results are “indisputable.”

Bolsonaro has been in near-total seclusion in the official residence since his defeat on October 30, prompting widespread speculation about whether he is desperate or plans to hang on to power.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Vice President Hamilton Murao chalked up Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs that he said prevents the president from wearing pants.

For its review, the Liberal Party hired the Legal Voice Institute, a group that has been critical of the current system, saying it defies the law by failing to provide a digital record of every individual vote.

In a separate report presented earlier this monthBrazil’s military said there were flaws in the country’s election systems and suggested improvements, but did not confirm claims of fraud by some of Bolsonaro’s supporters.

Analysts have suggested that the armed forces, which have been a key component of Bolsonaro’s administration, may have maintained an appearance of uncertainty over the issue to avoid displeasing the president. In a subsequent statement, the Ministry of Defense emphasized that although it found no evidence of fraud in the vote count, it could not rule out the possibility.

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Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writer Mark Stephenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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