Brazil court bans 3.3 million citizens who failed to register their digital fingerprints from voting

Electronic Voting Brazil Citizens Ban Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Brazil is one of the few countries across the globe where it is illegal to not cast a vote, with the exception of cases such as illness and illiteracy. The voting process in Brazil is also entirely electronic, meaning voters are obliged to register their fingerprints with authorities.

This year, however, a total of 3.368 million people have failed to register their digital fingerprints under the biometric voting system, introduced in 2012, meaning they will be unable to vote.

The decision regarding the unregistered citizens was made Wednesday September 2016 by Brazil’s highest court of law, the Supreme Federal Court, in which judges voted 7 to 2 in favour of banning them from voting.

The judges’ reasoning was based on the fact that voting is a fundamental right according to the Brazilian Constitution and failure to register their fingerprints would therefore eliminate the citizens’ right to vote.

According to the BBC, however, the Brazilian PSB (Socialist Party) argue that failure to register digital fingerprints is not enough reason to prevent citizens from voting, considering that around half of this election’s voters will still be eligible to vote via the old method of identification which involves presenting an identity document. The PSB argument that this ban was unfair for lower income citizens was also refuted by judges.

“All voters have rights and duties. The right to vote is the duty to register oneself again,” said Brazilian judge Alexandre de Moraes, reported the BBC.

“The majority of those who did not register themselves again are the poorest. The opposite is [also] true: the majority of those who re-registered themselves are also the poorest because unfortunately the majority of Brazilians are people with less economically favourable conditions. So, there was no targeting on behalf of Electoral Justice to harm the poorer citizens,” he added.

Figures show that the areas that registered the highest number of voting bans are located in Brazil’s impoverished northeastern states.

According to Abc news, critics claim that Brazilian authorities did not adequately inform voters of the necessity to register their digital fingerprints.

Electronic voting was introduced to the country in 1996 with the objective of eliminating fraud that revolves around the forgery of public documents. In 2012, the biometric voting system was then introduced with the aim of tightening security around identity checks during the voting process, and became obligatory this year.  

The first round of electoral voting is just over a week away and will take place on October 7.

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