Team Boomerang had the opportunity to interview Daniele Amaral Coordinator of Votenaweb. The independent organization gives young Brazilians the chance to have a voice in democracy.

Votenaweb is an online platform where people get the chance to vote for bills that are pending in congress. At the same time, citizens can view the performance of their representative in Congress. In that way Brazilians can hold their politicians accountable.

How does it work?

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Daniele Amaral and her eleven co-workers work together to give people the chance to make their voice heard. In the first step, they take the bills that are pending in congress and then they translate them into simple language. Not all bills can be translated due to the fact that it would be an overload of bills. Votenaweb makes the choices based on topics covered by the press, own evaluation, and citizen’s suggestions. Next to voting, citizens can check on their congress man and what he voted for in congress. Daniele Amarala and her co-workers always makes sure that there is at least one view from each congress man available.

In the next step, the Brazilians have the possibility to go to the site and vote for the bills. They can classify laws as urgent, relevant, or irrelevant. Next to that they can comment on laws which give them the possibility to get into discussion with fellow citizens. In the third and last step, Daniele Amaral goes to the senators personally and present them their results.

However, Votenaweb is not only giving Brazilians citizens a voice, it also helps senators to understand their voters. Daniele Amarala was talking in the interview about the famous soccer player Romário who is now a politician. Romário candidates for the Brazilian Socialist Party, he advocated against the political agenda for the World Cup 2014 in Brazilian. Daniele Amarala said: “Romário uses Votenaweb to understand the citizens to be a better politician in the future.” He launched a campaign promising to cancel all of his bills with more than 51 percent disapproval on Voteaweb.

Can Votenaweb make a difference?

On the one side, it can be said that Votenaweb is changing slowly the way Brazilians think about democracy, since it gives them a voice. The online platform has 173.000 participants which already vote together over five million times.

It empowers citizens to participate in Democracy easily. Daniele Amarala talked about a 24-year-old girl, who spends an ordinary night watching TV. At the time she shares her votes on Votenaweb with her Facebook friends. In the past this was different, Brazilians were ashamed to share their opinion. Since people have the possibility to come together on platforms as Votenaweb, they feel more comfortable to share views.

On the other side, it needs to be said that Brazilian is a young democracy which is still learning. The independent organization faces the difficulty of convincing the senators. Many well-known politicians still do not care about the votes on e-democracy platforms, but not so unknown politicians use it as chance. Another challenge is to attract more people. Votenaweb has especially in the north of Brazilian, not many users and also women are less active.

This is can be caused by Votenweb being an independent project which is not advertised. Only through social media as Facebook or Twitter and mouth-to-mouth propaganda the platform can reach more participants.  Lastly, there are many laws that would not change if many people vote a bill on an online platform. A brazilian girl, in the lab session at the World Forum for Democracy, pointed out that almost all the citizens want that the age of criminal responsibility be reduced to sixteen years. However, Daniele Amaral agrees with the girl there are some laws that the government would never change.

Get the next 40 percent in line

Votenaweb is still far away from making a large impact on Brazillian’s politicians. Nevertheless, the project is only five years old and it’s still in its developing phase. Progress can be seen since more and more politicians use the platform in their decision making process. In brief there is hope, Brazilian politicians are almost to 60 percent in line with the votes of the Votenaweb users. The task the activists face is how to get the other 40 percent in line.