Legal Magazine

Compulsory Voting Empowers All Brazilians

Posted on the 21 October 2014 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw

US citizens frequently complain that their “democratically” elected government officials are not representing their needs. Perhaps that is because nearly half of US citizens who are eligible to vote don’t actually vote. Consider the alternative – Brazil – where voting is compulsory. Brazil is one of the few countries that not only requires everyone between the ages of 18 and 70 to vote, but also strictly enforces this policy.

Here are a few points to keep in mind about compulsory voting in Brazil:

  • Brazilian citizens between the ages of 18 and 70 are required to vote, unless they are illiterate;
  • Voting is optional for Brazilian citizens between the ages of 16 and 18;
  • Voting is also optional for Brazilian citizens over the age of 70;
  • Drafted military members, or military conscripts, are not allowed to vote;
  • Brazilian citizens traveling abroad are required to participate in the elections by mail-in ballot;
  • A “justification form” must be completed for anyone who is unable to vote.

The consequences for not voting can affect more than just the pocketbook. The first level of enforcement is a fine for which citizens are given two months to pay. Failure to pay the fine within the timeframe may lead to difficulty obtaining or renewing a passport or ID card, securing a federally subsidized loan, receiving payment from a public sector job, or completing other registrations or obtaining other licenses.

How has this all affected this year’s elections in Brazil? The results of the October 5 general election have sent incumbent Dilma Rousseff to a runoff with challenger Aécio Neves on October 26. Current polls suggest that Neves may be slightly ahead following strong performances during recent debates. A slowing economy and socioeconomic difficulties have plagued the Rousseff administration as of late and are likely impacting the poll results.

With 80% of Brazil turning out to participate in the general elections, the results reflect the voice of the Brazilian people. Soon they will choose their leader for the next four years.

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