Unlike the US, Brazil Requires That You Vote
The US presidential election is over. Many voted, but some did not. In the US, voting is optional for citizens. But in Brazil, the federal Constitution says otherwise. All literate Brazilians between the ages of 18 and 70 are required to vote. For anyone over 70, voting is voluntary. The same is true for anyone between 16 and 18 years old.
For those Brazilians who must vote but do not support any of the candidates running for office, some have found a way around actually picking someone. Either they write in someone who is not running for office or they simply submit a blank ballot. According to a Public Radio International article, in the recent mayoral elections, 41.5 percent of Brazilians either wrote in someone who was not running for office or left the ballot blank.
Brazilians are fed up with politics in the country. President Dilma Rousseff’s recent impeachment and the criminal charges many politicians are facing have caused some to lose faith in the country’s political system. While some people do not want to vote because they feel there is no one they can support, others cherish their right to vote. They remember all too well their life under the dictatorship that once ruled the country.
The current mandatory voting law was enacted shortly after the dictatorship. The idea was to encourage more people to vote and to decrease voter inequality, making it so that everyone – whether rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle – had a say in the government. While the fine for not voting is minimal, roughly $1.50, other penalties for not obtaining documented proof of voting are what has persuaded some people to show up. These penalties include the inability to get a passport or a government-backed loan.
According to a study conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of São Paulo, the mandatory voting law in practice actually increases voter inequality. Because middle and upper-class individuals are more likely to want to get passports, they are more likely to vote. Unfortunately, it seems, at least for now, mandatory voting is not working the way it was intended.