Bolivia empties out for Election Day.

Countries like the United States and UK are trying to integrate elections seamlessly into daily life—you can vote by mail as if you were depositing a check, or even from your car while the engine idles. Voting takes place on weekdays. And yet, more often than not, voters just ignore the process altogether.

Bolivia does things differently. The South American nation, which reelected leftist Evo Morales to an unprecedented third presidential term on Sunday on the back of strong economic growth, is one of the small minority of countries that has compulsory voting. And to make sure everyone does their part, the country shuts down. No driving, no rallies, no domestic flights, no alcohol.

La Paz is usually a chaotic city, with cars, motorbikes, dogs, people, and the crowded mini-vans that double as buses all jostling for space on its streets. But on election day, the usual buzz was replaced by silence, broken only by voices and children playing and riding bicycles on the main roads. Completely empty of traffic, La Paz becomes a ghost town.

Compulsory voting starting in Bolivia in 1952, and voting day restrictions have grown since then. Alcohol cannot be sold for 48 hours before and 12 hours after the polls close (Bolivians are fond of forms of pure alcohol and even industrial-grade alcohols that would wobble any democracy). Public gatherings or shows are forbidden; no vehicles can drive on the streets except with a permit from the Electoral Tribunal. Getting anywhere during an election is a challenge: La Paz’s bus and train terminals shut from Saturday 4pm until 3am the following Monday morning. Even flights are grounded, except those leaving the country or the international flights on a layover.

It was so quiet that photographer Eduardo Leal was able to sit on the main avenue, just enjoying the sun and the quiet. Some residents turned the once-crowded streets into their playground, riding bikes or playing soccer. Others complained about the disruptions to their business, their daily life and—the irony of democracy!—their freedoms.

The tunnel of Plaza Bicentenario is usually choked with traffic. On election day, it is completely empty.
A single passenger waits for his bus to the city of Oruro in the Bus Terminal of La Paz. Long distance buses don’t run from 4pm on Saturday until 3am Monday.
Bottles of wine in a supermarket of La Paz. Alcohol is forbidden for sale 48 hours before and 12 hours after the election.
Jorge Villa plays football on 16th July Avenue in central La Paz.
At 3:30pm, a cleaner finishes her last round at the terminal, which will be closed as soon the last bus leaves to the city of Oruro.
An empty platform at the Bus Terminal of La Paz.
Daughter and father ride bicycles on 16th July Avenue in central La Paz.
Calle Murillo in the tourist-heavy El Rosario neighborhood. Also completely empty.
Montes Avenue and the church of San Francisco, without the usual traffic.
View from the middle of the 16th Avenue in central La Paz, one of the main arteries of La Paz.
A cable car tower, part of Evo Morales’ beloved cable car project, stands empty. Transportation restrictions grounded the cable cars on election day as well.
A couple kisses in the middle of Montes Avenue.
People line up at an electoral station in La Paz.
A woman casts her vote during Election Day in central La Paz.