Webmaster: Tribunal Superior Eleitoral
Elections are not a recent experience in Brazil. The free exercise of voting was first established in Brazilian territory by its first residents, immediately after the arrival of the colonizers. It was a result of the Portuguese tradition of choosing administrators for the towns under the Portuguese domain. As soon as the Portuguese colonizers arrived at the newly found land, they carried out votes to elect those who would rule over the new villages and towns. When arriving to the site where they would settle, their first act was to carry out elections for great guard regent. Only after this the towns could be founded, now under the empire of the law and order. These elections were carried out for local governments.
The relationship between the State and the Church was so close until the end of the Empire that some of the elections were held inside churches. Also, for some time, one of the requirements to be elected as deputy was the profession of the Catholic faith. The mandatory religious ceremonies preceding the electoral processes were only eliminated in 1881, with the promulgation of the Saraiva Law. This connection between politics and religion ceased only with the Constitution of 1891, which ordered the separation of Church and State.
The elections for local governments were held until the Independence. The first known election took place in 1532, to choose São Vicente's Town Council (in today's São Paulo state). Popular pressure and the economic growth of the Colony, however, demanded an effective participation of Brazilian representatives in the decisions of the Lisbon court. Hence, in 1821, the first general elections were carried out to choose deputies to represent Brazil in that court. Those elected had to discuss and approve the first constitution of the Portuguese monarchy.
The elections for the Lisbon court followed guidelines from the Spanish Constitution of 1812 - adopted by the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarve - and were carried out in four steps: citizens of every parish, with no restrictions, elected compromisers to choose parish voters. These appointed the district voters, who finally would choose the deputies. A parochial voter was named for every 200 "fires". A fire was a household in which a person or family independently inhabited. One building could have two or more fires. These elections lasted several months due to their countless formalities, and some provinces were not even able to elect their deputies.
The elections system was simplified afterwards.