Brazil’s election authority rejects Bolsonaro allies’ bid to annul votes

The head of Brazil’s electoral authority has rejected the request from President Jair Bolsonaro’s political party to annul ballots cast on most electronic voting machines, which would have overturned the Oct. 30 election.

Alexandre de Moraes had issued a prior ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party could suffer from such a challenge. He conditioned analysis of the request on the presentation of an amended report to include results from the first electoral round, on Oct. 2, in which the party won more seats in both congressional houses than any other, and he established a 24-hour deadline.

The Oct. 30 presidential runoff was won by Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

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Earlier Wednesday, the party’s president, Valdemar Costa, and lawyer Marcelo de Bessa said at a news conference that there would be no amended report.

In his decision hours later, De Moraes wrote: “The complete bad faith of the plaintiff’s bizarre and illicit request … was proven, both by the refusal to add to the initial petition and the total absence of any evidence of irregularities and the existence of a totally fraudulent narrative of the facts.”

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

On Tuesday, De Bessa filed a 33-page request on behalf of Bolsonaro and Costa citing a software bug in the majority of Brazil’s machines — which meant they lacked individual identification numbers in their internal logs — to argue that all the votes they recorded should be nullified. De Bessa said that doing so would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes.

Neither Costa nor De Bessa has explained how the bug might have affected the tabulation. Independent experts consulted by the Associated Press said that, while newly discovered, it doesn’t affect reliability and each voting machine is still readily identifiable through other means. In his ruling, De Moraes noted the same.

He also wrote that the challenge to the vote appeared aimed at incentivizing anti-democratic protest movements and creating tumult, and ordered an investigation of Costa and the consultant hired to conduct an evaluation.

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

At the news conference Wednesday, Costa said his intention was merely to prevent the results of the 2022 vote from haunting Brazil in the future.

The electoral authority ratified Da Silva’s win Oct. 30, and even many of Bolsonaro’s allies quickly accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, particularly with Bolsonaro declining to concede.

Bolsonaro spent more than a year claiming that Brazil’s electronic voting system was prone to fraud, without ever presenting 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 domestic and international experts who have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.

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