The Brazilian electoral system is very different from the one used in the U.S. Instead of the electoral college – with a winner-takes-all system in nearly every state – in Brazil each vote counts the same. Our rules are pretty straightforward: whoever gets the majority of the popular vote wins the race. Still, every four years, one Brazilian state is described as a “swing state” in the molds of the U.S. presidential race. It is the case of Minas Gerais, often nicknamed the “Brazilian Ohio” by political scientists.
Since 1960, not a single U.S. President has been elected without carrying Ohio, a major swing state with 18 electoral votes. The last one to do so was John F. Kennedy. The same phenomenon can be seen in Minas Gerais. Despite the absence of an electoral college, the results in Minas Gerais have consistently reflected what happens nationally – in 2016, they were exactly the same, Dilma Rousseff winning with 52 percent against Aécio Neves’ 48 percent in the runoff stage.
And no one has ever won Brazil’s presidency without winning the majority of Minas Gerais’ votes, ever since the country’s return to democracy.