It’s Time To Vote

There’s a lot going on internationally in regards to politics; presidential elections in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela are in the midst, and midterm elections are quickly approaching in the United States. This article is not here to convince you, or anyone, about whether or not to vote for a specific candidate, or to vote in general; I just want to recount my experiences as a Brazilian citizen and voter, and therefore the relationship I have with my civic duties.

To briefly explain the electoral system in Brazil, every citizen after turning the age of 18 is obliged to vote by law for both presidential and state elections. In regards to the presidential elections, which are held every four years, a president can be in office for a maximum of eight years. Any party within the system can choose a candidate to represent them in their presidential campaign. This election occurs in the first weekend of October when the first round of voting occurs and citizens can cast their ballot for their favorite candidate. If one candidate wins with a majority (>50%), then they will become the president. However, if no candidate wins in the first round, there will be a second round between the two top choices. The second round happens during the last weekend of October and will be decisive on who will be elected president.

"Democracy, when used effectively, provides the means for all to have a voice and be heard."

For those that are unaware, Brazil, my home country, is currently electing a new president. In 2016, the last democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff from the Workers Party (PT) was impeached.  So, her vice-president, Michel Temer from the Brazilian Democratic Movement, became the president of Brazil. The way the elections work in Brazil is different from the elections in the United States. With the impeachment, the country found itself divided, even more than when Dilma Rousseff was re-elected in 2014 when the popular vote was 51.6% for her and 48.4% for the other candidate. The new elections have driven a wedge between the Brazilian population as they are now facing a choice (or lack thereof) of a candidate. There were initially thirteen candidates running for the presidency, the main candidates are Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), Fernando Haddad (PT), Ciro Comes (PDT), and Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB). After the first round of elections, the top two candidates that will be running against each other in the second round are Jair Bolsonaro (PSL “Social Liberal Party”) and Fernando Haddad (PT “Workers Party”).

I have always been someone who cares about my rights, especially because I recognize how much hard work it took for women to get their right to vote in the first place. When I turned sixteen, I registered to vote (optional age) because I wanted to have a voice in what was going to happen to my city and country. However, these upcoming elections have never been so dividing between citizens, friends, families, who are all pitted against each other for two (in my opinion) absolutely terrible candidates. Providing you with some context, Fernando Haddad (PT) is from the same party that Dilma Rousseff is, as well as Luis Inácio da Silva, the ex-president that is currently incarcerated for laundering money and corruption. This party is seen as the driving force of the “Lava Jato” (Car-Wash) corruption investigation/scandal that has been taking over the country for the past 5-10 years. There have been endless complaining from the majority of the Brazilian population about their government and the lack of care for the people. Funding from health care, education, infrastructure, the economy, have all been redirected into politician’s pockets during their entire time in power, approximately sixteen years. When Rousseff won her re-election by a margin of barely 2%, there was an enormous outbreak within the capitals of the country, protesting against the corruption that resulted in Brazil hosting the World Cup and the Olympics when we find ourselves in a place that can barely feed their own people. When she was removed from power, a glimmer of hope spread through the population, showing the potential for change. However, the party has regained power during this election due to the opposing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), who is commonly known as Brazil’s version of Donald Trump, but worse. He has made misogynistic, homophobic, racist, transphobic, elitist, and religious intolerance comments in many interviews and in his propaganda. When asked what he would do if his son were gay, he answered the following, “He would never be gay because I educated him...“I would rather have a dead son than a gay son.” He also believes in the traditional family values, which is seen in his slogan “Brazil above everyone, God above everything”. He has instigated a lot of violence within the country, by showing the open hatred towards minorities without any consequences, encouraging others to do so as well.

Now, Brazilians are faced with the decision to pick between one or the other to lead our country for the next four years. In my opinion, it is the choice between two evils. During the first round of elections, nearly 20% of the population did not vote, which is the highest rate since 1998. As not voting may seem the most desirable and easiest option, executing rights as a citizen while holding some form of protest against both candidates. Even if all but one individual chose to vote blank, that one individual’s vote would determine who would be elected president. So when it comes into question who to choose, while each candidate conflicts with my opinions, how do we cope?

I believe it is important to go to the polls (or send in an absentee ballot) and make a decision on whether to let others decide (blank vote) or try to have some say in who is elected president by voting for a candidate. And for this reason, I have decided not to disclose my voting intentions. I, however, want to take a moment of reflection on the consequences of individual actions and how they may affect the greater society. By voting for one or the other, the effects on the population are different based on your socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, race, education level, health, amongst other privileges. I think that I, in a position of privilege while studying abroad in the US, should not be voting for only myself. I want to rather focus on those that our society has neglected and therefore will use my platform to give them a voice.

In a more general view, I understand that in the United States, voting is not mandatory, and many choose not to. However, I would encourage you to reconsider. Voting is a way to show support for your values and how you would like to see the environment around you change. The beauty of democracy and the human race is our differences in appearance, culture, opinions, souls, etc.  These factors are ones that we should appreciate each other for and not make someone feel less because of it. Democracy, when used effectively, provides the means for all to have a voice and be heard. That is what is lacking almost everywhere in the world right now. Few people want to listen; the majority only wants to talk and impose their own beliefs. I think that some things should be imposed on society, for example, murder as a crime. However, I do not think that anyone should be considered less than because of something they cannot control. The only way for us to be able to change the system is to place the voices we resonate within power.

While discussing discrimination and prejudice in my sociology class, my professor said something along the lines of, “The only way to remove someone from power is through the disruption of social order, making voices heard, and being LOUD.” Why don’t you?