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Brazilian artists campaign to mobilize youth to vote in upcoming elections

Stickers created by the “Olha o barulhinho” campaign to reach out to teenagers. ‘Pirilili’ is a reference to the sound of the electronic ballot | Illustration: Giovana Fleck/Global Voices

A few months ahead of Brazil's October presidential, gubernatorial, and senate elections, the country's Superior Electoral Court (TSE) has raised a major concern: the number of young people registered to vote is the lowest in recent decades, and shows a downward trend.

Since Brazil's 1988 constitution — the first after the military dictatorship — voting has been optional for young people age 16 and 17, and compulsory for those over 18. Those who cannot vote for reasons of travel or work, for example, have to explain their reasons to the Electoral Court.

Campaigns by influencers, musicians, and political organizations hope to change this.

The TSE recently made an online appeal that started a nationwide campaign involving influencers. With a focus on Twitter and Instagram users, the hashtag #RolêdasEleições (a slang meaning ‘stroll’) was created to promote “Young Voter Week.” In one week, more than 96,000 voter cards were requested across the country.

According to the Zero Hora newspaper, in Rio Grande do Sul state alone, the number of people over age 16 with a voter card increased by 86 percent in one month.

Famous Brazilians also decided to use social media to share information on how to register and the deadlines for teenagers to register — May 4.

Actor and director Lázaro Ramos was one of the celebrities to post about the campaign on Twitter:

Those who turn 16 by October 2 or are already 17 or 18 need to get their voter card by May 4 to participate in the celebration of democracy!

And now the #RolêdasEleições campaign is underway, to encourage first time voting and getting your voter card. And every voice matters!

Join us by posting a message of support on Twitter using the hashtag #RolêdasEleições

The singer Anitta, who reached number one in Spotify's world ranking at the end of March, also shared it with her 16.5 million Twitter followers:

Are you 16 or 17 years old or will you be 16 BY October 2? Have you moved cities and want to vote for Brazil’s new president?
Then, you should know it is very easy to get or transfer your voter card today! It's all online and no biometrics needed!

She was retweeted by the North American actor Mark Ruffalo, known for his role as the Hulk and as an activist in the United States, who spoke out against President Jair Bolsonaro and also shared another Brazilian campaign:

Come “Pirililili”

Movements have also been created to mobilize people, including “Olha o barulhinho” [“Look out for the little noise”] (referring to the noise made by the electronic ballot when voting) and SeuVotoImporta [“Your vote matters”], founded by activists such as 19-year-old Helena Branco.

She told the podcast O Assunto that she became engaged with the issue during the 2020 municipal elections. She realized that most people were unaware of deadlines and information on how to get a voter card.

“The TSE is doing its job, but how can we bring this message to teenagers in a different way? So, we developed a campaign that was designed to be fun, easygoing, and speak the language of the people who were going to get their voter cards, who were in this age group,” she said.

With “Olha o barulhinho” (“Look out for the Little Noise”) campaign, future voters can find tutorials with a youthful aesthetic and references to TikTok trends and memes, as well as stickers to use on Telegram or WhatsApp — “Pirilili”, which appears in one of them, is a reference to the sound of the ballot.

According to surveys by TSE and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics that draws on census and National Household Sample Surveys, the participation of young people and teenagers in elections has been falling in Brazil. In the 2014 presidential election, the percentage of young people registered to vote was 19.5 percent. By the first day of 2022, the electorate aged 16-17 had fallen around to 10 percent.

Possible factors include demographic change. The population is getting older, and six out of ten young people are afraid to talk about politics and risk being put down, as a survey by the Ipec institute showed last year.

The survey also showed that 20 percent of young people are unfamiliar with the National Congress or the Supreme Federal Court.

The right-wing

Flávio Bolsonaro, a senator in Rio de Janeiro and son of President Jair Bolsonaro, mocked the initiative on Twitter:

23:59 Lula has 550% of the intention to vote and beats everyone.

00:00 Plz, young people, get your voter card to get Bozo out of the presidency.

He posted another message trying to explain its meaning:

We know the importance of getting the voter card, but the youth are no fools and are well aware of the ex-convict's record.

There have also been young people showing their support for the current president on social media, using the hashtag #SouJovemSouBolsonaro [“I'm young, I’m Bolsonaro”].

Among these messages, there was criticism of artists who publicly called for the end of Bolsonaro’s presidency.

The left-wing

Artists who performed at the Brazilian version of the Lollapalooza festival, from March 25 to 27 in São Paulo, also reminded young people about the importance of getting their voter cards and going to vote.

Singer Pabllo Vittar's performance also talked about the candidates themselves. Pabllo took a towel from a fan, with a photo of former president Lula, and shouted “Bolsonaro out.”

The Liberal Party goes to the TSE after Pabllo Vittar used a Lula flag at Lollapalooza

The act was among those referred to by lawyers for Bolsonaro's party, the PL (Liberal Party), who filed a complaint with the electoral court alleging that it was early campaigning.

A minister of the Superior Electoral Court, Raul Araújo, then banned artists from making political statements on the last day of the festival, which then sparked even more protests against Brazil’s current president and censorship. Those who did not comply could risk facing a fine. 

The rock band Fresno opened on the last day, when the decision was already public, showing “Bolsonaro out” on the big screen and singing criticisms of the president. In one of their songs, at the beginning of the show, vocalist Lucas Silveira sang the lines:

E o prеsidente, basicamente, quer te exterminar
E o ideal fascista já conquistou teu núcleo familiar
F****!

And the prеsident, basically, wants to exterminate you
And the fascist ideal has already taken over your family.
F****!

The minister reversed his decision the following day, with the festival already over.

A statement released on March 25 by the TSE said that between March 14 and 18, more than 96,000 young people got their first voter card. 

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