As many of you likely know, México held national elections eleven days ago. México elected Andrés Manuel López Obrado (AMLO) as México’s next president. AMLO is expected to take México towards the political left. How far left he will take México is still open to debate. It is also important to note that although AMLO is the presumptive winner, officially the tallying of ballots is ongoing. Nonetheless, here are a few things the United States can learn about México’s recent elections.
Yes, México can teach the United States about democracy. First, because, unlike the United States, México elects its president via a direct vote from its electorate. Each vote goes towards that individual, not into a pot where it is divvied up to appoint the president. In the United States, the citizens’ votes are tabulated and put into a pot known as the electoral college. The president is appointed based on the electoral college. The stated reason is that the electoral college limits the power to elect the president by the states with the largest populations. In other words, the states with the largest populations cannot dictate who the president is. Thus, the argument is that the electoral college is an equalizer between the large and small states. The problem, as evidence by the last election, is that the current president, Donald Trump, does not represent the will of the majority, instead Trump represents the will of an algorithmic calculation attempting to equalize votes among the population.
That is not democracy.
In addition, the Mexican elections showed how democracy is not two political parties but many representing the will of several different electoral needs. They range in ideological spectrum, from conservative to liberal to religious points of view to even ecological political agendas. Each voice is equalized through coalitions coming together as no party can dominate the politics of the nation. In the latest round, nine parties came together to form three viable coalitions who put forth a presidential candidate and a slate of legislators.
AMLO’s dominant win not only proves that democracy has been achieved in México, but that no party dominates the national agenda. AMLO, although he has a clear mandate, must still govern through a coalition of ideology and ideas forcing him to put forth a national agenda derived from multiple viewpoints.
That is democracy – the rule of the people by the people, at least coalitions of people.
In addition to the ideal that each vote goes towards the voter’s choice, about 63% of México’s electorate participated in the election, according to the preliminary reports.
Guaranteeing Voters Access and Rights
There is much debate in the United States about national voter registration and identification cards. México offers a national electorate card to each citizen both in México and those living abroad. Each citizen is given the right and the opportunity to vote. The credentialing of voters does not cost anything to the voter with the only requirement is proof that the voter is a citizen of México.
The argument in the United States is that a national voter registration and identification disfranchises potential voters. The argument against national voter identification cards is that proposed systems impose onerous requirements that keeps minorities out of the voting rolls. One of the arguments used to bolster the argument that national voter rolls are used to discriminate against minorities is Texas’ law requiring certain identification to cast a ballot. This argument, along with the others goes back to the hodgepodge of voter laws in each state. Rather than have a national voter roll, each state can create its own elections laws leading to disfranchised voters caused by regional political necessities. A national voter roll would solve the problem of voter disfranchisement, but self-interest political shenanigans does not allow this to happen. The Democrats lead the anti-national voter rolls movement. The question is, why?
México has proven that a national voter roll is how democracy works.
The United States could learn from the simple solution of investing in a national voter roll where the cost to register is zero and the only proof required is citizenship.
As if that wasn’t enough, readers may note that unlike previous elections, México’s recent election has little to no scandals of voter fraud. The reason for this is México’s election process.
The first, is obviously the national voter registration identification card. To avoid fraudulent votes, a voter must present his card, where it is compared to a master list. Once the individual is verified, they are given a ballot to mark. Then their finger is marked with ink that cannot be removed for days, thus ensuring that they do not cast more than one vote.
Not only is the voter kept from voting more than once, but their vote remains a secret although it can still be manually verified if anyone were to challenge the results. Each ballot is serialized with codes that show the voting location of the ballot and the voting district. Each ballot is manually marked and put into a transparent ballot box that can be observed by representatives of each party and citizens interested in the process.
One day is set aside to vote, a Sunday. As it is considered a serious matter and a civic responsibility, the sale of alcohol is prohibited on that date. Citizen participation is encouraged each step of the process. Most important is that each step of the process is open to the public, from transparent ballot boxes to the counting of the ballots. It is all done in public.
Although a manual process, technology ensures the election results are quickly verified and counted. A mathematical formula is used to sample election results to give the country a sense of the results on election day. As each election site finishes the manual count, the count is put on paper, digitized and sent to Mexico City along with the paper ballots. The digitizing of the count reports allows anyone with an internet connection to view counts down to the voting location.
The digitizing also includes a live count as each ballot is counted allowing internet users to view the count in real time. Statistical analysis can be performed from the national count down to the state level on down to the granular analysis of each voting location giving citizens and foreign observers alike access to the vote count process from the voting place on to the final count.
Each individual ballot is kept until the final count is completed and absent any challenges to the results, they are then destroyed. Because each ballot is serialized to the location where it was issued, and the vote recorded, a ballot by ballot count can be tallied against the individual voting location ensuring further transparency in the electoral results.
The United States, on the other hand, uses in many places an electronic process that does not allow for ensuring each vote is properly counted. U.S. voters are expected to accept as a matter of fact that each of their votes were properly tabulated. This, in addition to the lack of a national voter identification system leaves much room for voter fraud.
The fact that there are allegations of voter fraud proves that United States does not offer its electorate the assurance that their vote is properly accounted for.
The most important lesson that México offers the United States about democracy is that a two-party system limits the voice of the electorate. It is impossible for a two-party system to represent all the voices of the electorate. There are policy agendas that are disfranchised because their access to the two political parties are limited. This is disfranchisement of the electorate.
A plurality of voices is best represented when more voices are heard. By forcing candidates to form coalitions among many political parties forces the elected individual to represent not one political agenda, but various, thus allowing greater access to a larger public policy agenda.
AMLO was given a mandate but his mandate is not the MORENA public policy agenda, but the agenda derived from “Juntos Haremos Historia”, a coalition between MORENA, Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party) and Encuentro Social. The Encuentro Social Party represents an evangelical protestant religious agenda. It leans to the political right. The labor party proposes a public policy agenda based on “equality” and socialist values with a sustainable ecological agenda. How much power these two coalition members will have over the AMLO administration is yet to be seen. However, the AMLO mandate is in part due to the coalition.
The AMLO agenda, although appears to be supported by MORENA wins in the legislation is nonetheless subservient to the coalition and the support of MORENA legislators.
In terms of what American can learn from the Mexican democracy is that the time for two-national parties is long gone. The electorate has a diverse view of what a national public policy is and thus it needs multiple parties forming coalitions to give as many ideologies as possible a voice on the policies of the country.
México’s law against reelection for most elective offices keeps elected officials from becoming careers politicians. It also allows for public policy to evolve along with the society. There is some consternation with the recent primary win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among the Democrats. The debate is whether a change in party ideology is underway. The reason for the debate is that the “old guard” of the party feels vulnerable to new political ideas.
Nancy Pelosi has been in Congress for about 35 years. Pelosi is a professional politician and rather than representing continuity in national policy, she represents the stagnation of party politics focused on staying in power rather than on a national policy agenda representative of various ideas.
Career politicians represent their self-interests rather than the interests of their electorate. This is because their paychecks depend on the benefactors that fund their candidacies.
These are the lessons about democracy that Americans can learn from the México experience.