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Leader of Bolsonaro’s party disagrees on vote-counting claims

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Valdemar Costa Neto, the chairman of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, on Wednesday said there is “no longer” a “secret room” in which votes are supposedly counted inside the Superior Electoral Court.

The supposed existence of such a shady room is one of several baseless talking points in Mr. Bolsonaro’s long-standing crusade of false allegations against Brazil’s electoral integrity. According to this claim, only high-ranking electoral officials — such as the court’s justices — are allowed into the ‘secret room’.

In an attempt to mitigate the effects of the president’s disinformation campaign, electoral authorities held a much-publicized event with international observers and campaign officials in the so-called totalization room — where votes from across the country are tallied.

“Is the room secret, Valdemar?,” the reporter asked the Liberal Party chairman on Wednesday. “Not anymore. It’s now open,” he replied.

In reality, there was never a secret room. In fact, since 2018 party officials have been allowed in the room on Election Day, as The Brazilian Report has already shown.

One of the conspiracy theory’s first major proponents was conservative pundit Olavo de Carvalho, who died earlier this year.

In 2015, Mr. Carvalho wrote that President Dilma Rousseff had been re-elected thanks to “fraud” involving a “secret counting” of votes. This is untrue. Votes are counted in Brazil’s half a million voting machines, each of which is a receipt that can be read and photographed by anyone, including party officials.

The results of the so-called “ballot bulletins” can be checked against those published online. No discrepancy or fraud has ever been detected.

The role of the tallying room is merely to add up the numbers of the several thousand voting machines. In Brazil’s smallest cities, the results of the mayoral elections are known before the electoral courts announce them, because party officials simply add up the numbers of the printed bulletins themselves.

Mr. Costa Neto has disagreed with President Bolsonaro’s attempts to discredit the electoral system before.

In September 2021, Mr. Costa Neto recorded a video message opposing Mr. Bolsonaro’s proposal of individual printed vote receipts. The month before, the House had won a bill on this proposal. Twenty-three Liberal Party members in the House voted against the bill, with 11 supporting it.

Bringing back individual printed vote receipts — a practice used only once since the adoption of electronic machines (in 2002, for around 6 percent of the votes) — was an attempt by pro-Bolsonaro leaders to allow recounts and overturn a likely electoral defeat, borrowing a page from Donald Trump’s playbook.

On Election Day, both the Federal Accounts Court and the military will conduct separate inspections of ballot bulletins, checking their results against those published online by the Electoral Court.

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