Following the presidential election 5,000 miles away

A student discusses the differences in voting processes between the electoral systems in the United States and her home country.


Every Election Day growing up, I went to vote with my parents. 

I remember they let me press the buttons with their candidates’ numbers in the electronic ballots. I remember going back home and knowing by the end of the day who had won the election. 

This month, even though I was not physically in the United States, I experienced my first American presidential election while watching from Brazil. 

Brazilians know that this American election will have an impact on the Brazilian election in 2022 and on our diplomacy as the changes happening in the U.S. this year may happen soon in our country. Both presidential candidates had different thoughts about international students, so my possible professional future in the U.S. was on the line in this election. 

The first week of November filled me with anxiety. For the first time, I followed the whole process of counting votes and delegates. It is intriguing to see how some states are more important because of their “swing states” title. We don’t have anything like that back home. For a few days, I paid more attention to U.S. states like Wisconsin and Michigan than I have to any other Brazilian state for a while. 

Similar to Americans, I woke up every morning after Election Day overwhelmed with stress, not knowing if I would know who won by the end of the day. 

While we were waiting for the results from my home in Porto Alegre, Brazil, my dad asked me again and again if the votes were really cast through the mail. For my father, who voted through electronic ballots for so many years, it doesn’t make sense that people vote using paper ballots in the U.S. 

This election was even important to my mom, who almost never sits to watch television. She had the TV on the 24-hour news channel during the first week of November waiting for the updates because she also knew this would impact my life in the U.S. 

I was living in another country, but my attention was all focused on the American election. Despite being physically in Brazil, many of my plans include living and working in the U.S., so it is important to me to know who will run the country and how. For a few days after Election Day, it was like I was back on American soil because the only thing I could think, research and talk about was who is going to be the next American president. 

Pandemic aside, I wonder if one day the American system will change and become more like Brazil’s with electronic ballots, no Electoral College and mandatory voting. What I do know is that on Nov. 15, we had municipal elections in Brazil and I had a completely different election experience. I didn’t vote with paper ballots and I knew my vote didn’t depend on an electoral delegate.

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