Compulsory Voting and the Brazilian Constitution of 1988
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
As in many Latin American countries, voting in Brazil has been compulsory for decades. Illiterates, though, were banned from voting completely until 1985. Illiteratesﾒ votes were initially compulsory, but became voluntary with enactment of the 1988 constitution. In the final draft of the constitution voting remained compulsory for nearly all citizens, voluntary for illiterates, and voluntary for those under 18 and over 70 years old. This paper examines the process in the constitutional convention that produced this result. After all, the key subcommittee dealing with voting rights initially proposed having both voter registration and voting voluntary for all, and there was even a proposal to ban illiterates from voting in national elections! Politicians on the right and the left of the political spectrum supported both sides in the compulsory voting debate, and neither side agreed about what the electoral implications of compulsory/voluntary voting would be. In the end, both strategic maneuvering by politicians and normative views about democracy produced the mixed result: compulsory voting, but only for certain citizens.
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