Identification Totalitarianism

People who did not turn up for the “biometric relisting,” which ocurred in several Brazilian cities, summoning about 14 million voters, will lose their voter registration cards, their ability to enroll in public education institutions, to benefit from welfare programs or to apply for public jobs. They will not even be able to do such trivial and essential things such as opening a bank account or getting a passport. Fortunately, the government was generous enough to offer the laggards a chance to “regularize” their situation by May 7, “with no fines.” Reassuring, is it not?

The Brazilian state intends to acquire the biometric data from more than 140 million voters in order to make our next elections “secure.” For that goal, it is supposedly necessary to collect, from every person, the fingerprints from all fingers, their picture and signature. The new voter registration card is produced reflecting the newly collected information. Without this card, the state directs an economic embargo against the individual — who is no longer able to get a passport to flee from the country.

The voter card is but one of the many tools of identification and surveillance the Brazilian government possesses: ID (which should be carried at all times by every person), CPF (the registration to the federal revenue service), driver’s license, military enlisting or dispensation certificate (mandatory for men), employment record book, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate …

One would think the government should have sufficient information about its subjects, but, apparently, the need to make voting “secure” for the “celebration of democracy” requires people to turn over even more of their private data to the authorities. If so much information is necessary for us to have secure voting, is it possible that our previous elections have been a fraud? We are left to wonder.

Of course, all of this is but a lie, a smokescreen designed to distract from the fact that this is another step towards total power concentration in the state. The relatively innocuous purpose of guaranteeing clean elections is just a precedent put in place so that the government can amass even more power to control the population and, down the line, demand even more private information.

None of this is necessary. It is also not necessary that voting should continue to be mandatory in Brazil. The state continues to pretend that its purpose is to guarantee elections free of fraud when, in fact, it could easily just end the obligation to vote and stop punishing those who do not. Without mandatory voting, the argument to relist the voting population is irrelevant.

The biggest Brazilian irony is that we will have, theoretically, an extremely safe identification system while, on the other hand, we have an electronic voting system immune to contestation. It is virtually impossible to know if the electronic ballot box is not prone to fraud, since there are no independent means of verification and auditing, and no physical voting receipts. The Brazilian electronic voting is a black box, whose only opponents are those on the fringes of the ruling elite, such as Leonel Brizola, who are promptly laughed at and scorned should they raise any doubts over it.

This is a perfect electoral system for the ruling class: It combines maximum surveillance, mandatory voting which guarantees very large turnout, and no possibility of independent verification and recounting. Therefore, we have total legitimacy for the state and no questioning of its power.

It is the dream of the gentle tropical totalitarianism.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory