Understanding the difference between electoral residence and civil residence

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Electoral residence and civil residence are diverse concepts that present their own characteristics set forth in the Civil Code and the Electoral Code. As to the first one, residence is the place at which the person is established with a definitive intent. It even allows for the possibility of multiple residences, in case the person has more than one home or if the person alternates between homes. In electoral legislation, the concept is different. The electoral residence, although it must be only one, it may also be the place to which the person has only a professional, family or political link.

For Eduardo Alckmin, a specialized lawyer in Electoral Law, although the concept of electoral residence is broader and allows for the voter's choice, there are restrictions to it. "There is no total freedom. Voters must demonstrate that the chosen place is what the law calls residence or dwelling. The citizen must be physically present in the location where he/she intends to be established as a voter. You cannot simply bond to any city, only because you like it or for personal reasons, and be a voter there. You must be linked to it," he explains.

In regions where there is a large migration flow, for example, it is common for voters, when moving to another city or state, not to transfer their voter's title as a manner of maintaining a link to their family origins. "People do not want to lose contact with their origins, with their families. So, in spite of living in other places, they feel linked to their origins. And when they have the opportunity to vote, they want to do it in the city where they were born. It is a very strong link and the Electoral Justice recognizes it," says Alckmin. 

The lawyer highlights that it is not possible to accept a voter who defrauds the law and registers him/herself in a city in which he/she does not present any kind of settlement. He further stresses that the Electoral Justice has mechanisms to restrain frauds, either by means of denunciations or by analyzing the amount of registrations and transfers performed in the electoral offices.

Law no. 9504/1997, the Elections Law, allows TSE to demand an electoral review or a correction in Electoral Zones if it finds, for example, that the total number of transfers in a certain year is 10% higher than in the previous year. It is also possible to demand a review if a district's electorate is superior to 65% of the population projected for that year by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

Fraud in the registration or in the electoral enlistment is deemed as a crime. Punishment for fraudulent registration, as specified in Article 289 of the Electoral Code, may reach five years of prison and fine. The one who persuades the voter to perform such fraudulent registration commits the crime provided for in Article 290 of the Electoral Code. Punishment is up to two years of prison and fine.