In Brazil, everyone has to vote — it’s a law. However, when you vote, you have two options to “not vote.” The first is to vote for no candidate, which means you don’t think any of the candidates are fit to hold the office. The other is to vote “white,” which means you give your vote to the candidate who gets the most votes numerically. In order to win, a candidate must obtain a certain percentage of the overall vote, including votes for no candidate. Thus in Brazil, “no candidate” an win the election, in which case the election has to be held again.

In the US, not voting is equivalent to voting “white” in a Brazilian election. Thus the act of not voting doesn’t make the statement that “I think this election is a joke.” Rather, it means “I cast my vote with the majority among people who care to vote.” In the Three Ring Circus that is California, you could vote for No Recall, but you could also vote for a candidate in case the recall passed. All those who didn’t vote for a candidate after voting No Recall just voted for Arnold. All those who didn’t vote in the 2000 Presidential Election voted for whoever won their state.

I’m not saying the Brazilian system is better, but comparison points out clearly the political significance of not going to the polls.

0 thoughts on “vote

  1. Last fall the Economist reported Brazil’s government will run a surplus, taking in more taxes than paying out services. The excess will go to paying interest on massive external debt. The article goes on to congratulate then newly elected president Lula for his moves to privatise the utilites sector and reduce pensions to state-employees. These austerity measures, largely a continuation of those of the U.S.- backed candidate that Lula defeated, highlight the constraints to democratic action in Brazil. In the U.S., where constraints are considerably freer, a mass-based, labor-oriented party, like the one behind Lula’s victory, could probably take significant steps to address the gross injustices in our society. Further, Lula’s example shows that, in the face of much harsher repression and more massively concentrated wealth and power than we face here, such a party can achieve electoral success through popular organizing and activism. I think this is a more telling comparison to make between the two systems, and one that emphasizes the importance of working for a wider spectrum of electoral choices. Perhaps the “not vote” system is a way of doing just that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.