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Brazilian Independence forced the country to improve its electoral legislation, which used to be during the entire Empire a copy from the French model.
The first electoral law, of January 3rd, 1822, promulgated by Prince Regent Pedro, called elections for the General Legislative Constituent Assembly, which was formed by deputies from the Brazilian provinces. These elections were held in two steps. Parish citizens chose parish voters, who then named the deputies. In the first, those who received wages and salaries could not vote, and in the second step "decent subsistence by employment, industry or goods" was required. The number of voters was still calculated according to the number of 'fires' (homes) in each parish.
Until 1828, elections for municipal administrations followed the so-called Royal Ordinations, which were laws ordered by the king and adopted in all the regions under the Portuguese domain. In the beginning, the vote was free for all. Eventually, however, it became an exclusive right for those having greater purchasing power, among other prerogatives. The minimum age to vote was 25 years old. Slaves, women, natives and salary earners could not choose representatives or rulers.
On March 25th, 1824, Pedro I created the first Brazilian Constitution, which ordered the Legislative Power to be exercised by the General Assembly, formed by the Chamber of Deputies and by the Senate; it also established the indirect elections, in two steps, the census vote and verification of the powers.
Professing the Catholic religion was a requirement for one to be elected as deputy. The princes of the Imperial House were granted seats in the Senate when they turned 25 years old.
The first electoral law of the Empire, established in 1824, determined the proceeding of the election of deputies and senators for the General Legislative Assembly and of members of the provinces' general assemblies. The vote was made through lists signed by the voters, which contained as many names as there were voters in the parishes.
The vote was mandatory. In case of impediment, the voters acted through their proxy, sending their signed list, certified by a notary. The vote by proxy ceased only in 1842, when the enrollment boards were established. These were formed by a district justice of peace, who acted as its president, a parish minister and an inspector.
In 1855, the district vote was instituted through the "Circles' Law".
The "Third Part Law", of 1875 (thus named due to the fact that the voter would choose two thirds of those to be voted), distinguished itself among the imperial laws for having introduced the participation of the common justice in the electoral process and for instituting the voter's registration certificate.
The legislation in force during the Empire caused the public opinion to demand direct elections and to criticize abuses and frauds; this led Counselor Saraiva to reform such legislation, and Rui Barbosa was charged with the task of drafting the new law, No. 3029/1881, known as Saraiva Law. It abolished the indirect elections and entrusted the electoral enrollment to judges, extinguishing the parochial qualification boards.
In 1881, the Saraiva Law established direct elections for the first time. Rui Barbosa wrote the project of this law, which also entrusted the electoral enrollment to judges, abolishing the parochial qualification boards.