Can we learn from the Mexicans?
Dan Juneau -
July 13, 2006
Until recently, Mexico had a long history of election fraud, intimidation and outright suppression of voting.
To their credit, the Mexicans decided to do something about it and passed sweeping election reforms designed to protect the integrity of their democracy by enhancing the integrity of their elections. The recent presidential election gives a solid indication that the Mexicans' system may be superior to that of the original home of democracy in the Americas—the United States.
Michael Barone, author of "The Almanac of American Politics" and an expert on elections, covered the election from Mexico City. In one of his updates, Barone gave his analysis of the superiority of the Mexican system:
"When a Mexican voter enters the polls his voter ID card—with its picture and signature and hologram—is checked by one official with the list which shows a replica of each registered voter's card. Then the card is checked and held by another official who hands the voter his paper ballots (different ballots for each office). Then after the ballot is deposited, the card is checked again and handed back by a third official, and the voter's thumb is stamped with indelible ink. This is a much more rigorous process than in most of the United States—and would presumably outrage those who take the preposterous position that demanding a picture ID from a voter is a violation of civil rights. I have more confidence in Mexico's election procedures than I do in those in much of the United States."
Imagine that: A system that requires a voter ID card with a photo, a signature and a hologram to make absolutely sure that the voter at the polls is the voter who is legally registered under that name. Then to protect even more against fraud, the thumb of the voter is stained with indelible ink to visually certify that he or she has already cast a ballot. Mexicans obviously take their right to vote seriously, as well they should. Their new system is in place for what may be the closest—and cleanest—vote ever recorded in Mexico.
At the conclusion of the recount, Felipe Calderon, the candidate of the ruling PAN party, has been declared the winner over Andres Lopez Obrador by a margin of less than one percent.
The closeness of the Mexican election brings to mind the Bush/Gore nightmare of 2000. Fortunately for the Mexicans, their system—unlike the one here—does not vary from state to state, and the election law is very clear about what procedures must be followed to validate votes. There will likely be protests from the losing side in the Mexican election (razor-thin defeats are hard to swallow, as we witnessed in the long months after our 2000 election), but the safeguards and transparency within the Mexican system will serve the nation well in the aftermath of this incredibly close vote.
Mexico is a nation with impoverished minorities with a history of being suppressed. Its solution to the integrity of its elections was to stamp out every possible chance for fraud.
America is a nation with a much smaller percentage of impoverished and undereducated voters, yet we have taken steps away from protecting the integrity of our elections.
There is a huge difference between imposing a poll tax or "literacy" requirements to suppress minority voting and taking reasonable steps to be sure that all votes are legally cast. Mexico's system works for everyone.
Ours is in significant need of repair.