Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Elections in Brazil

Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Elections for political positions happen every four years. This article will explain how this process happens and the main characteristics of the Brazilian electoral system.

Brazil’s political system can basically be summarized as three spheres: Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The first two have its delegates elected by the population.

Men and women who are more than 18 years old and less than 70 years old are obliged to vote in the country. Young people who are at least 16 years old and any adult more than 70 are also free to vote, if they want to.

An authentic document with a photo must be presented on the election day. Anybody going to the ballot boxes must also have a voter registration, even though this document does not need to be presented when voting.

To obtain a voter registration, the person must just go to his electoral notary with a birth certificate, worker registration or other personal identification.

Disputed Positions

As said previously, politicians are renewed every four years, but, in practice, there is one election every other year.

Politicians of the federal and of the state government are chosen in the same election. This means that, every four years, Brazilians vote for a President of the Republic, federal and state parliament members, senators and also a state governor. These type of elections will happen in 2014, and, later, in 2018.

Another election, that happens in a different year than the one above is the election of mayors of municipalities and city councilors. These type of elections last occurred in 2012, and will happen again in 2016.


Senators are also chosen by the people, but they have a term of eight years, instead of 4 year-terms like the other politicians.

Each state is represented by three senators. Every four years, one politician or two, alternatively, are elected. In 2014, for example, one senator per state will be chosen. In 2018, two politicians will enter the Senate.

How Elections Work

There are two different models of elections in Brazil.

Presidents, governors, mayors and senators are chosen through the majoritarian system. This means that the candidates with the absolute majority of votes — more than 50%, excluding blank and null votes — are the ones elected. If an absolute majority is not reached, a second round is realized between the two candidates with more votes.

Parliament members and city councilors are elected via a proportional open list, which is a bit more complex. Essentially, there are four steps:

  1. Voters can choose a specific candidate or just a political party legend.
  2. All of the votes received by each party are counted, adding up the votes from candidates and from the legends.
  3. The number of available positions are distributed proportionally: parties with more votes get more positions.
  4. Then, political parties divide their available positions among the most voted candidates.

In Whom Brazilians Vote

In the elections where the new President of the Republic is elected, each Brazilian chooses:

  • The President
  • The voter’s State Governor
  • One or Two Senators
  • One Federal Representative
  • One State Representative

In the municipal elections, each Brazilian chooses:

  • One Mayor
  • One City Councilor

As previously stated, Brazilians may also choose to vote in the political party legend, instead of a specific candidate.

Can Foreigners Vote in Brazil?

According to the Federal Constitution, foreigners cannot vote in Brazil, unless they obtain Brazilian citizenship. There are rare exceptions to this rule, though.

The main one refers to foreigners that have Brazilian parents. In this case, the person is allowed to vote, even if they were born in another country. It is important to highlight that this can only happen if the foreigner is registered in the foreign country’s consular post and has a voter registration.