Sometimes, when voters go to the polls, they find themselves not liking any of the candidates up for election. It is rare, however, for there to be a binding “none of the above” choice offered — in fact, you won’t find any such binding option anywhere in the United States. The closest thing is in Nevada — Nevada requires that a “none of these candidates” option by law, but even then, those votes are purely symbolic.
But at the end of the day, at least in democracies, voters always have an avenue to make their displeasure heard. In the 1959 Sao Paulo, Brazil city council election, voters did exactly that: a rhinoceros named Cacareco (pictured) was voted for by a plurality of voters.
Cacareco’s rise to political stardom was not her choice, of course. The animal (whose name means “garbage” or “rubbish”) was living at the local zoo when a bunch of students, upset with government corruption, figured that she would make an excellent choice for their protest, given her relative popularity in the surrounding area. The circumstances for the election were perfect: voter turnout was low, disapproval of the government was high, and voting was conducted by putting a ballot in an envelope and returning it to the election authority.
The last part was key. Students printed up 200,000 ballots with Cacareco’s name on it and distributed them to the already jaded electorate. Roughly half of them ended up in the voters’ envelopes, and the approximately 100,000 votes cast in Cacareco’s name constituted 15% of all votes. This was enough to give the rhino a plurality.
Election officials nullified votes for Cacareco, noting that she was not eligible for office, and ordered a re-vote. And while Cacareco never took office, her legacy rivals many politicians who did indeed serve. In some parts, “Voto Cacareco” still alludes to a protest vote. And in Canada, a satirical (but legitimately registered) political party — the Rhinoceros Party — claims to be the spiritual descendants of Cacareco.
From the Archives: Dr. Scholl’s Path to the Presidency: When foot powder won an election.
Related: “Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?” — a Shel Silverstein book, so it has to be good.