In a blow to electronic-voting critics, Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended the use of all paper ballots in this year’s elections. The ruling means that only electronic ballot boxes will be used, and there will be no voter-verified paper trail that officials can use to check the accuracy of results. In an 8-2 majority, justices on Wednesday sided with government arguments that the paper trails posed a risk to ballot secrecy, Brazil’s Folha De S.Paulo newspaper reported on Thursday. In so doing, the justices suspended a requirement that 5 percent of Brazil’s ballot boxes this year use paper. That requirement, by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court, already represented a major weakening of an election reform bill passed in 2015.
Speaking in support of Wednesday’s decision, Justice Gilmar Mendes equated proponents of voter-verified paper trails to conspiracy theorists.
“After the statements made here [by those who defend paper votes], we have to believe that perhaps we did not actually reach the moon,” Mendes was quoted as saying. “There are beliefs and even a religion around this theme.”
Brazil first introduced the limited use of Direct Recording Electronic voting machines in 1996, ironically in response to regular reports of fraud committed using paper ballots. By 2000, elections were fully electronic. Since then, Brazilian voters have received no paper trail that can be used to audit tallies. The 2015 reform law required, among other things, the use of paper ballots. Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court had planned to begin phasing in that requirement starting with elections scheduled for October. This week’s Supreme Court decision suspends that deadline.