University of São Paulo: Agreement between USP and TSE seeks to improve Brazilian electronic voting system

Teams from the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and USP work on the innovation of the electronic voting system. This partnership is part of the cooperation agreement signed in 2021 to seek new technologies applied to the electoral process. Through analysis of electoral program devices, experts simulated a vote using three connected voting machines to act simultaneously in the same polling station, as a way of speeding up the voting process. Professor Wilson Ruggiero, from the Department of Computer Engineering and Digital Systems and from the Laboratory of Architecture and Computer Networks (Larc) at Poli, coordinates this project and explains the process in an interview with Jornal da USP in Ar 1st Edition .

According to the professor, this agreement proposes two activities. The first is the lab’s participation in the public security testing of the current system, while the TSE invites people to take the test. The second activity is called “elections of the future” and consists of developing, through the application of new technologies, the next steps of the electronic voting system.

Laboratory members went to Brasília in November 2021 to carry out 29 tests. There was also the participation of public and private universities, specialists from the Federal Police and independent specialists interested in the violation of electronic voting machines. “The work of these specialists was strongly collaborative, because, in addition to an attack plan, they bring mitigation proposals in case they identify any failure”, describes the professor.

Vulnerability identification
An important aspect of the TSE’s objectives that Ruggiero highlights is the identification of “vulnerability”, when there is a violation of the secrecy of the vote and “failures”. “This year no one was able to identify a vulnerability, there were 29 attack plans. Of these, 24 were unsuccessful and the other five were unable to cross the second barrier. With these identifications, the TSE promotes mitigations. This month of April will be reserved to rethink these corrections and in the month of May the investigators return to Brasília to verify if the problem persists or not. These processes make the electoral system continue to become stronger”, says the professor.

The objectives of these studies are the reduction of system costs, with the reduction of equipment and employees; for this, the professor states that there is an investigation to make it possible to share three urns in three or four sections. In addition, there is an intention to improve security, secrecy, transparency and increase auditability for the electoral process. The professor explains that, in the current system, the voter leaves with proof of attendance and the intention is that there is more information in this document. We want to include information that allows the voter to verify, during the voting, if the selection registered was correct and, after the election, there is the possibility for the voter to verify if their vote was counted in that result”, emphasizes Ruggiero.

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