The counting of votes does not take place in a secret room

Contrary to what fake news is circulating on social media and what even President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) has already repeated, the counting of votes in Brazilian elections is not done in a secret room. In fact, the work takes place in two different spaces: the Department for summarizing and disseminating results and the safe room, which is located in STI (Department of Information Technology), in a building attached to the headquarters of the TSE (Supreme Electoral Court) in Brasília.

Twenty employees are employed The Department for Summarizing and Disseminating Results, which is not a secret location, as UOL columnist Carolina Brígido showed. The team develops the vote counting software and checks the functionality of the software not only on voting day, but also before the election.

Counting systems are systems sealed in a public ceremony on the day of the sealing. [das urnas]. These systems once sealed cannot be changed. And if it changes, it is possible to identify the change because there are cryptographic control mechanisms for that. So the people don’t have the power to change the system or change the vote.
Alberto Cavalcante, head of the totalization and dissemination of results sector, in an interview with Carolina Brígido

The space can be visited by anyone, provided that they are properly identified in the entrance hall of the TSE. There, on election day, party members, state attorneys and supervisory bodies can monitor the functioning of the vote counting system. Access follows TSE security guidelines.

“Access to the room is limited by the security protocols of the court itself. The personnel must go through the porter’s office, identify themselves. On election day, the security of the court, as a whole, is increased – not specifically this room – precisely to avoid access by unauthorized persons or at least those who are not identified, and this room is in this security perimeter of the court itself,” Cavalcante said.

safe room

It’s another space safe room, which has limited access and enhanced security. Computers with sensitive data, such as the National Register of Voters, candidate registration and accountability, as well as copies of computer programs used in electronic voting machines, are stored here. According to TSE, there are a total of 90 computers in the secure room.

Only three servers have access to the site. You have to go through five coded doors, which only open when the previous ones are sealed. In the last two, access happens only after reading the fingerprints of two of these employees simultaneously — except that you have to pass a certain badge, TSE informs. On election day, no one stays in this room, only the servers in charge of maintaining the machines enter the room if necessary.

It is also necessary to use the key that is kept in another safe, also with prohibited entry.

Supercomputers in the TSE vault

Image: Disclosure / TSE

Protection. A safe room is resistant to fire, corrosive gases, water, explosion, firearms and even small earthquakes. The space also has certificates against heat, moisture, smoke, burglary, unauthorized access, sabotage, impact, dust and magnetism.

“The room has an air conditioning system that maintains the temperature at 18ºC and constantly checks for the presence of smoke. In the event of a fire, a special extinguishing gas is released into the environment, without any damage to the computers,” TSE explains. place is monitored 24 hours a day of at least three people.

Public and audit counting. Although the counting of votes – the general counting – is concentrated in two spaces, one of which has limited access, this does not mean that the counting of votes is not public or auditable. Data on the counting of each ballot box is published in a printed bulletin in each section shortly after the end of voting — the bulletin is also delivered to party inspectors. In addition, the audit of ballot boxes supervised by inspection entities has been carried out since last year.

A series of articles from UOL Confere explains vote counting, polling station audits and other details of the election process. Check:

*With information from Carolina Brígido’s August 27, 2022 column.

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