After two months of rallies, TV ads, and debates, the electoral campaign is finally over in Brazil. On Sunday, 114 million Brazilians will head to the voting booth to elect new mayors and members of city councils. Only in residents of Brasília – the country’s capital – and the island of Fernando de Noronha won’t vote. Brasília is not legally considered a “city” and has no mayor (similar to Washington DC); Fernando de Noronha is an overseas territory administrated by the federal government.
We’re explaining how the Brazilian electoral system works:
Who votes in Brazil?
Voting is mandatory for all Brazilian citizens between the ages of 18 and 70. The only exceptions, to whom voting is optional, are:
- illiterate individuals;
- teens between 16 and 18 years old;
- adults over 70 years old;
- politicians who were impeached and have had their political rights suspended
If a person fails to vote, he or she must justify the absence to the Electoral Justice and pay a fee of approximately $1. If no action is taken, individual civil rights are suspended, and the person is no longer allowed to be issued a passport or ID, enroll in a public school or university, receive loans from public banks, or work as a civil servant.
No city has as many voters as São Paulo: 8,886,324.
The voting booth
To avoid fraud, the enrollment system for voters is biometric. The system is 100 percent electronic, and each candidate has his or her specific electoral number. To vote for someone, a voter must type the candidate’s number – first for city council, and then for mayor.
Even if voting is mandatory, it is possible either to cast a “blank” vote or an “invalid” vote. The latter is completed by typing a number that was not registered to any candidate, and then confirming.
A two-round system
In cities with over 200,000 voters, the mayoral race is decided in a two-round system, similar to the French method. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the valid votes (excluding “blank” and “invalid” ones), then the two leading candidates will face off with one another on October 30.
Brazil has 5,568 cities. There are a total of 16,565 candidates for mayor (in some small towns, there are uncontested candidates), and 463,376 candidates for city council. There is a very significant group: joke candidates.
Among the available choices, we have Bin Laden lookalikes, Vin Diesel wannabes, porn stars asking people to vote with “love,” and a candidate named Walter White – a “pure politician” (got it?).
A Bloody Campaign
Since the campaign began in August, at least 20 candidates have been murdered across the country. Not all crimes were politically motivated. Many are related to personal vendettas and criminal rivalries, as some candidates were suspected of involvement in drug trafficking or the organization of paramilitary militias. Gilmar Mendes, the president of Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court, deemed this campaign as “one of the bloodiest in Brazilian history.” Mendes requested that the Federal Police take action. Federal troops have been sent to 307 cities across 14 states demanding “critical” attention.