Brazil’s lower house on Tuesday approved a motion to fast-track the vote on bills that propose fining pollsters whose findings differ greatly from electoral results — even making it a crime to publish surveys that deviate too much from official tallies. The bills can now go directly to a floor vote, skipping legislative steps in specific committees.
Congressman Ricardo Barros, the government whip, is the author of a bill making it a federal crime for pollsters to publish surveys that differ from official results by more than the margin of error — punishable with four to ten years in jail, plus a fine of BRL 1.2 million (USD 229,000).
Fraudulent polls are already a crime under current legislation. However, part of the new bills aim to characterize as fraudulent any poll that deviates from the election results, something which has happened dozens of times in recent years.
The idea of penalizing pollsters for publishing supposedly “wrong” surveys is not new. A bill on the issue was presented in 2011, although it was never taken to a floor vote. Formally, the House has approved an emergency vote on the 2011 text, to which several other similar bills were attached, including the one by Mr. Barros.
House Speaker Arthur Lira, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, said that the House floor vote on the actual bill (as opposed to its congressional pathway) will be on a new core text entirely, to be drafted by Congressman Paulo Eduardo Martins, another staunch supporter of President Bolsonaro.
Mr. Martins was the president in 2021 of the special House committee on bringing back individual printed vote receipts, a major talking point of the pro-Bolsonaro camp in its efforts to sow distrust in Brazil’s voting system.
The proposal failed in the House, aborting any discussion in the Senate.
On October 2, after the Electoral Court published the results of the first round of the elections, President Bolsonaro said “we defeated the lie,” in a reference to polls indicating that his rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had a chance of winning without a runoff. Mr. Bolsonaro’s performance at the ballot box was several points higher than all pollsters suggested.
Ironically, Mr. Barros’s bill and the president’s remarks indicate their trust in Brazil’s voting system. To affirm that the pollsters were wrong, it is logically necessary to trust the official electoral results as a benchmark. President Bolsonaro was confronted about this but dodged the question.