How Brazil’s Chief Constructed the Delusion of Rigged Elections


By Jack Nicas, Flávia Milhorance and Ana Ionova

Produced by Grey Beltran

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For years, President Jair Bolsonaro has attacked Brazil’s election methods.

One in every of his claims has been that obvious patterns in vote outcomes present proof of fraud.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s Fb web page, July 2021

He has repeatedly stated that election officers rely votes in secret, suggesting they might manipulate outcomes.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s YouTube web page, April 2022

And he has stated that he suspects hackers tried to steal the presidential election from him in 2018, however failed.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s YouTube web page, August 2021

These claims are false, in line with Brazil’s election officers, fact-checking businesses and impartial election-security specialists who’ve studied the nation’s digital voting system.

But in speeches, interviews and lots of of posts on social media, the president has constantly and methodically repeated these baseless claims and lots of others about Brazil’s voting system.

The consequence has been a yearslong marketing campaign that has undermined hundreds of thousands of Brazilians’ religion within the elections that underpin one of many world’s largest democracies. In a ballot this month, three out of 4 of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters stated they’ve little or no belief in Brazil’s voting machines.

Now, Brazil is bracing for turmoil. Whereas Mr. Bolsonaro has warned of voter fraud for years, he has by no means misplaced an election in three a long time in politics. However within the contest for president on Sunday, he could also be going through defeat.

And he has urged that he wouldn’t settle for it.

O Tempo, September 2021

The New York Instances combed by means of lots of of hours of Mr. Bolsonaro’s interviews, speeches and weekly livestreams and 1000’s of his social-media posts to map his efforts over eight years to criticize or query the voting system.

The ensuing image confirmed an elected chief, first as a congressman after which as president, who has constructed a story of fraudulent elections based mostly on inaccuracies, out-of-context experiences, circumstantial proof, conspiracy theories and downright falsehoods – very like former President Donald J. Trump.

His proof has centered on obvious abnormalities within the voting course of and outcomes, usually introduced with out attribution, and he has framed hypothetical eventualities of fraud as way more possible than they’re.

As Mr. Bolsonaro has gained energy and fame, his claims have been amplified by members of Brazil’s Congress, conservative pundits and his grownup sons, in addition to a broader community of misinformation peddlers, in line with The Instances’ evaluation, which additionally relied on a database of livestreams compiled by the Brazilian journal Piauí.

Regardless of his claims, there was no proof of fraud within the digital voting machines since Brazil started utilizing them in 1996, in line with impartial specialists, Brazil’s election officers and overseas governments, together with america.

As an alternative, the machines helped get rid of the voter fraud that when racked Brazil’s elections within the age of paper ballots.

However the system is exclusive. Brazil is the one nation on this planet to gather and rely votes solely digitally, with out paper backups.

Mr. Bolsonaro has seized upon that as a serious flaw: With out backups, he argues, one can by no means make certain that every particular person’s poll is counted appropriately.

Congresso em Foco, July 2022

Election safety specialists say that a number of layers of safety forestall fraud or errors.

  • Officers take a look at lots of of machines on Election Day to make sure they’re recording votes appropriately.
  • Every polling station posts vote counts publicly, making certain that they match up with the nationwide tally.
  • Exterior specialists examine among the supply code of the machines’ software program.
  • Most voters use their fingerprints to unlock the machines, whereas others current picture identification to ballot employees.
  • And the machines aren’t related to the web, considerably decreasing the possibilities of a hack.

Mr. Bolsonaro started criticizing the voting machines when he was nonetheless a congressman, simply after the 2014 presidential election. That 12 months’s center-right candidate for president had disputed the outcomes of a slender loss and demanded an audit. The audit confirmed no fraud.

To Mr. Bolsonaro, that was not sufficient.

Home of Representatives video, October 2015

Mr. Bolsonaro vowed to finish the all-electronic system. In 2015, he helped lead Congress to cross a measure to require paper backups. However the Supreme Courtroom vetoed the change, saying it could violate residents’ proper to maintain their vote secret.

Mr. Bolsonaro claimed the choice confirmed that the political institution was defending a susceptible system to assist leftists rig the subsequent election.

In that election, in 2018, Mr. Bolsonaro ran for president. On the time, he urged that the election’s outcomes couldn’t be trusted due to the voting machines.

UOL, September 2018

Then he received.

But Mr. Bolsonaro nonetheless claimed fraud. With out proof, he argued that the election had solely gone to a runoff as a result of the left had stolen votes.

If the outcomes had been clear, he stated, he would have received within the first spherical.

As president, he continued to push baseless claims of fraud.

He usually depends on rumour, presenting unattributed experiences of irregularities within the voting course of as proof of one thing amiss.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s Instagram web page, June 2021

In July 2021, whereas president, he introduced that he would present, as soon as and for all, proof that the system was rife with fraud. As an alternative, in a two-hour livestream on social media, he once more pointed to a sequence of obvious aberrations.

He confirmed an area newscast from 2008 that stated that some voters in a single rural space claimed their votes weren’t counted appropriately. (The federal police investigated and stated there was no fraud.)

He confirmed a video from a programmer who claimed to reveal how voting machines had been hacked in 2018. (Consultants and fact-checkers stated the video was riddled with errors, together with a basic misunderstanding of how the voting system works.)

And he confirmed a montage of individuals complaining that the machines wouldn’t allow them to vote. (Election officers stated any malfunctioning machines are rapidly changed. In lots of circumstances, officers stated, the problem is a mistake by the voter.)

A few of his central proof was a spreadsheet of vote returns that he stated confirmed uncommon patterns. He claimed that the sequence of outcomes was nearly statistically unattainable, suggesting an algorithm was controlling the returns.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s Fb web page, July 2021

Election officers and specialists stated he introduced inaccurate information.

Mr. Bolsonaro later referred to as overseas ambassadors to the presidential palace for one more presentation that he promised would show fraud. As an alternative, he rehashed previous complaints.

This 12 months, he enlisted Brazil’s navy in his combat, saying it could guarantee voting was protected. The armed forces analyzed the system and proposed a sequence of minor adjustments. In response, election officers adjusted how they deliberate to check the machines on Election Day. The navy has since urged it’s comfy with the system.

But, weeks earlier than the primary spherical of voting earlier this month, Mr. Bolsonaro continued to lift suspicions.

SBT Information, September 2022

On Oct. 2, he acquired 43 p.c of the vote, trailing his challenger, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by six million votes — much better than polls had predicted.

However days later, with out offering any proof, he urged there was fraud.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s YouTube web page, October 2022

Brazil’s navy, which monitored the voting throughout the first spherical, discovered no indicators of fraud, in line with a prime navy official who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of he was not licensed to talk publicly. Mr. Bolsonaro’s authorities has not launched the navy’s findings publicly.

Officers in Brazil and overseas are actually fearful that if Mr. Bolsonaro loses on Sunday, he’ll declare the vote was stolen and name on his supporters to take to the streets and demand he stay in energy.

At a rally this month, he informed supporters to assemble at polling stations because the outcomes are introduced. As the group chanted his nickname — “legend” — he informed them there was no means his opponent may feasibly win.

Livestream on Jair Bolsonaro’s Fb web page, October 2022

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