Published On: November 4, 2014

US and Brazil Elections

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November 4 Americans went to the polls for midterm election voting, so-called because it occurs in the middle of every President’s 4-year term. While President Obama has two more years to complete his second and final term, Americans were voting for governors, local officials, and the federal congress in Washington.

The US election is important to Brazil and other countries because it determines which political party controls Congress. Currently, the Representatives (equivalent to the Deputados in Brazil) are controlled by Republicans (conservative) and the Senate is controlled by Democrats (liberal). As the US is based on a two-party political system, both houses of Congress are always controlled by either the Republicans or Democrats. However, after yesterday’s election, beginning in January 2015, all of Congress will be controlled by the Republicans, while a Democrat continues as President.

The control of Congress is not tied to the political party of the President, as it is in Brazil, where the President must form a coalition among the numerous parties in order to support the President’s agenda. As a result, it’s common for the President and Vice President in Brazil to come from different parties. In the US, the President and Vice President are always from the same party.

Besides the multi-party system, there are several other differences between the US and Brazil when it comes to elections. First, voting is mandatory in Brazil but voluntary in the US. Also, in presidential elections, the winner in the US is chosen through the Electoral College, a representational system that gives more weight to more populous states like New York, California, and Texas. A pure popular vote is used in Brazil to determine the president, as it is in all other elections in the US except for President.



Perhaps the most extraordinary difference between elections in Brazil and the US is the use of electronic voting machines. In Brazil, the entire country uses the same electronic, touch-screen voting machines, while in the US, voting machine technology varies from state to state. When Brazilians heard about the “hanging chads” in Florida in the infamous 2000 Bush/Gore election, they were utterly confused. No one in Brazil could believe that Americans were voting on paper, not in a country that sent a man to the moon and created Microsoft, Intel, and Google.

Brazil’s voting technology enables the country’s vote to be counted for 99 percent of the population in matter of an hour or two after the polls close. The voting machines rely on satellite technology from a London-based company called Smartmatic, which configured and deployed 1,464 Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite terminals to support voice and data communications in this year’s presidential election in Brazil.

“In this age of immediate communications, speed in transmitting election results is a challenge every electoral commission faces,” said Antonio Mugica, Smartmatic’s CEO. “Over the past two decades, Brazil has built a robust electoral platform to swiftly process the results of more than 140 million voters. By using satellite technology to expand the reach of its voting platform, Brazil’s electoral commission is setting an example many commissions around the world should follow.”

This is the second consecutive Brazilian election in which Smartmatic has been involved. Smartmatic is the largest single owner of BGAN terminals and antennas in the world. Leveraging on Inmarsat’s network, it has enabled electoral commissions in Argentina, Brazil, and the Philippines to efficiently reach voters who live in remote and rural areas.

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