Publication | Report/Paper

Brazil 1994 Election: Technology Assessment Report, February 28, 1995


The 1994 elections were critically important in the democratic development of Brazil, the largest democracy in Latin America (nearly 100 million voters choosing from among nearly 35,000 candidates). For the first time since at least 1960, Brazilians voted for national and state offices - President, Senator, Federal Deputy, Governor, and State Deputy - simultaneously. This changed the dynamic of Brazilian politics significantly, since in previous elections candidates would often take a leave of absence from elected office to run for office at another level. If they lost, they returned to their previous position; at worst they would have to wait a year or two until the next major election. The 1994 elections were more of a political life-or-death event.

There was also apparently some apprehension among Brazil's political forces about the continuing modernization of election administration in Brazil. Under an agreement between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Brazilian government, the UNDP had been working with Brazilian electoral authorities since October 1993 to set up a new computerized results transmission system. Prior to the elections, the Democratic Workers' Party (PDT) asked the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia for assistance in locating a U.S. firm to perform an audit of the vote tabulation software.

IFES took an early interest in Brazilian election administration in 1989, when newspaper reports there indicated that Brazilian election officials were looking into the possibility of adapting existing national sports lottery technology (based on optical scanning) to voting and vote counting. Brazil had also undertaken a pilot program beginning in 1983 to establish a nationwide computerized voter registry which would eventually allow election officials anywhere in the country to check the voter registry for duplicate registrations elsewhere in the country before ~ registering new voters.  As part of this process, the Brazilians also developed sophisticated programs to detect and report suspected duplicate registrations already in the system. More recently, election officials in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina had undertaken a pilot project to automate the electoral process using very inexpensive personal computer technology and a custom keyboard. We believe that Brazil may be developing cost-effective indigenous election technologies which would be appropriate for use in other developing countries.

Ray Kennedy, IFES Director of Information Resources, traveled to Brazil to study the October 3 election process there and to learn more about the technological innovations taking place in Brazilian election administration. Mr. Kennedy visited Sao Paulo, the largest state but also one of the least technologically advanced in election administration, and Santa Catarina, where the State Election Tribunal has been one of the most advanced in introducing computer technology in election administration. Following the election, he traveled to Brasilia to watch the national vote tabulation and to meet with members and staff of Brazil's national election authority, the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral - TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal).

The report that follows will focus on the technological innovations in Brazilian electoral administration, the future direction of its modernization, and the applicability of the concepts and technologies involved to election administration in other countries.

Read the Full Report.