SAO PAULO – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday that his political party will seek to audit the electronic voting system before the upcoming election amid concerns he is actively sowing distrust in its eventual results.
“As allowed by electoral law, we will hire a company to do the audit,” Bolsonaro said during a live broadcast on his social media channels. “People want transparent elections in which the vote is effectively counted for their candidate.”
The far-right leader, who trails leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in early polls, for months has questioned the reliability of the voting system though he has never provided any evidence. Critics and analysts have raised concern Bolsonaro is laying the groundwork to contest October election results should he lose.
Bolsonaro also said in his broadcast that the armed forces have given nine suggestions to Brazil’s electoral court to improve the system, but haven’t yet received any response.
“Initially they (the armed forces) raised hundreds of vulnerabilities to go through this with a fine-tooth comb. It has been a long time... If electronic ballots are impregnable, why are they (the electoral court) worried?” the president said. “The head of the electoral court should thank them, take the necessary measures, discuss with the team of the armed forces so the elections are held without any suspicion."
He added the armed forces “will not perform the role of just rubber stamping the electoral process, or take part as spectators.”
During the broadcast, Gen. Augusto Heleno, one of Bolsonaro’s top advisers, denied a report published earlier Thursday from news agency Reuters claiming the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency told senior Brazilian officials last year that Bolsonaro should stop casting doubt on his country’s voting system.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price, speaking to reporters in Washington, said he wouldn’t comment on anything CIA director Bill Burns may have said to Bolsonaro or others.
“It’s important that Brazilians, as they look forward to their elections later this year, have confidence in their electoral systems and that Brazil once again is in a position to demonstrate to the world through these elections the enduring strength of Brazil’s democracy,” Price said.
Also on Thursday, the day after the voter registration deadline, Brazil’s electoral authority said more than 2 million Brazilians aged 18 or younger joined the rolls this year. In Brazil, voting is mandatory for anyone aged between 18 and 70, and failure to vote entails paying a small fine. Those 16 and 17 can vote, but aren’t obligated.
In the 2018 presidential election, nearly 116 million voters – out of the 147 million people registered – turned up at the voting stations.
Brazil’s electoral authority has said it has received a record number of registration requests this year. The number of young voters registering to vote between January and April rose 47% compared with the same period before the 2018 election, it said in a statement.
The surge came after local celebrities like singer Anitta plus Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo made a final push for registration amid nationwide get-out-the-vote campaigns.
___ AP journalist Matthew Lee contributed to this report in Washington.