In Brazil Voting Is Serious Business and Mandatory to Boot

Elections in BrazilBrazil’s Election Board, the TSE, which is actually a court consisting of federal judges and presided over by a Supreme Court justice has enormous power in its role of electoral watchdog, overseeing compliance with laws.

Brazilian electoral laws are strict, rigid and detailed as it seeks to run elections in a careful, controlled and punctual manner, sort of like a railroad timetable. Brazil is not  railroad timetable, but the electoral legislation tries to keep things well-organized.

And what better way to organize things than by establishing a calendar? All candidates are prohibited from participating in inaugurations as of July 3. Electoral commercials and advertising will be allowed as of July 6. Registration of candidates will be allowed until July 10.

Here is something new for the October 2010 elections: all candidates are required to present proof that they do not have a criminal record.

The TSE will now allow voters to make donations to political campaigns with debit and credit cards. And as of this year, all political parties will have to have bank accounts to receive donations (in the past only financial committees and the candidates had to do this).

Political parties will have to inform the TSE where monies they passed on to candidates came from within 30 days after the election.

Finally, as voting is mandatory in Brazil, being absent from one’s voting precinct can be a problem and mean a very long line to get a form that must be mailed in on election day so the absence can be “justified” – but then, because everyone has to vote, that line can be very long as well.

The TSE has decided to attempt to be flexible about allowing voters to vote outside their precincts – the result is a little unwieldy. First, the voter has to know he will be elsewhere at least four months in advance so he can request a temporary transfer of his voting rights.

The request must be made between July 15 and August 15. But a new polling place for “voters in transit” will only be available in capital cities around the country and, then, will only be open if there are at least 50 voters in transit registered to vote at that location. The idea of ballot by mail hasn’t been heard in Brazilian shores yet.

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