How does the U.S. electoral system compare to Mexico's?
July 2, 2012 6:49 PM   Subscribe

"Indeed, in this year when the United States is engaged in a ferocious campaign for the presidency, the question that ought to be asked is: How does the U.S. electoral system compare to Mexico's? I undertook a comprehensive study of the electoral systems in North America, and the good news is that the United States came in third. The bad news is that there are only three countries in North America." ___With Mexico in the aftermath of yesterday's federal and state elections, Robert A. Pastor observes 8 things the U.S. election system could learn from Mexico's.
posted by CrazyLemonade (43 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have talked about this for so long I will not repeat myself here: The US has a lot to learn from Mexico, not everything there is violence and corruption.


Next on the list: How US banking compares to other systems in North America. Do you know that in Mexico they use like computer and networks and stuff to handle checks? That means that the bank immediately knows if the check is good and you get access to your money right there.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 7:02 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


9. They have their election on Sunday instead of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

-1. Most Mexican states have "ley seca" where alcohol sales are banned the weekend of elections (except Tijuana and tourist beach resorts). The only time I've heard of such a thing was when I lived in Arizona where bars were closed and you couldn't buy booze while the polls are open. Not sure if that is still the case, but based on many elected officials in AZ, maybe they should drink more.
posted by birdherder at 7:04 PM on July 2, 2012


Almost all good points, but:

The U.S. could and the U.S. should establish an independent national nonpartisan election administration with a national biometric ID

I could do without such an id card. It would never remain limited to voting.
posted by BeeDo at 7:09 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seeing as how Peña Nieto won with less than 40% of the vote, this article seems to be glossing over the biggest flaw of both the US and Mexican system: fist-past-the-post systems are inherently broken, particularly when multiple parties/candidates are involved.

Given that the rest of the article is spot on about the partisanship, incumbency, and grotesque effect of money on the US system though, this core problem seems unlikely to change and to be the least of worries.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:12 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


*first-past-the-post

fist-past-the-post is entirely different, but still involves someone getting fucked.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just listened to this episode of On The Media* about the media system in Mexico and I think the title of that episode was very apt: Es Muy Complicado.
In the article it says "FE pays for media advertising, and ensures that the candidates have equal access. IFE also tries to discourage any negative advertising."
In the thing i listened to, they said that when they passed a law legislating the political ads, the politicians just bought the broadcasters instead. The legislature practically owns the broadcasters.

I'm not saying one article is right and one article is wrong, but both countries have incredibly complicated histories leading to incredibly complicated present situations. Just to say "US sux because it seems on paper that Mexico is doing everything right" is to take a superficial and pointless view.

You know, there are very good reasons we don't even want to require a driver's license at the polls, much less some kind of biometric nonsense. We're doing that for a reason (it's because requiring IDs is yet another way to stop poor people from voting, and yes it's very controversial). It's not because we don't know any better.

*Thanks, AskMe!
posted by bleep at 7:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do not mean this as snark. I mean this as condemnation.

"in this year when the United States is engaged in a ferocious campaign for the presidency,"

And that's different than any other year exactly how?
posted by eriko at 7:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're doing that for a reason

Well, for one reason, it's fundamentally a poll tax. Even if the card is free, getting the required documentation is not, neither is the travel or time lost to get the so-called ID.
posted by eriko at 7:37 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The U.S. could and the U.S. should establish an independent national nonpartisan election administration with a national biometric ID

I could do without such an id card. It would never remain limited to voting.
All this talk about voter ID laws in the US (which are mainly about preventing people from voting) got me wondering -- Why should you need a physical ID to vote?

I mean, when I voted in Iowa, you use your signature as an ID: You sign your name and the poll worker checks to see if the signature matches - if it does you get to vote.

So why not just expand that to photo identification? Rather then looking at a tiny picture on an easily forged card the poll worker could look at a nice, high resolution image on a monitor. You could tell them your name and they'd look it up. You could even take another picture so that people could go back and verify, as well as using computer algorithms to match the face with even more precision.
posted by delmoi at 7:50 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the idea of a poll tax is to stop poor people from voting. Like I said.
posted by bleep at 7:54 PM on July 2, 2012


Also, I was wondering whatever happened with the whole thing where James O'Keefe tried to scam poll workers in New Hampshire. I looked it up and apparently there's still some legal activity going on. I kind of assumed nothing came of it, partly because the NH primary seems like a million years ago, but in fact it was actually just six months ago at this point. And at this point he can't even really return to NH without getting subpena'd.

For those who don't remember his whole plan was to 'expose' how easy it was to fake vote by using a recently dead person's name to vote, except he got caught so it actually disproved his point. It's also a crime in NH just to pick up the ballot fraudulently, even if you don't actually cast the vote (otherwise you couldn't legally do anything unless someone actually cast a fraudulent vote)
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on July 2, 2012


Nonpartisan election administration.

This would be step #1 if I was in charge of things. The current US system is completely loony and there isn't any down side to anyone desiring a fair system to non-partisan oversight. All the other points there is at least a somewhat reasonable counter argument even if I don't agree with the first principles of those arguments. But having party officials run elections is a recipe for corruption. Corruption that seems to be rampant in the US.
posted by Mitheral at 8:00 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nonpartisan election administration.
The problem is that the republicans and fox news would attack it, and, being non-partisan, they wouldn't be able to respond without being "partisan" so they'd have to acquiesces to their ridiculous demands, while democrats wouldn't say anything.
posted by delmoi at 8:15 PM on July 2, 2012


eriko writes "Well, for one reason, it's fundamentally a poll tax. Even if the card is free, getting the required documentation is not, neither is the travel or time lost to get the so-called ID."

There would be ways to minimize the poll tax effect of voter cards: Heck the Selective Service manages to keep dibs on 95% of their target demographic and there you have people actively resisting registration; there isn't any functional reason the US couldn't use the same distributed methods to register voters.
posted by Mitheral at 8:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The reason is that historically the US has had a big problem with certain parties trying to prevent other certain parties from voting and now none of it can be trusted to not be gamed in some way. It's called "This is why we can't have nice things".

Corruption is a cancer that's really hard to get rid of. There are no easy answers. As Mexico well knows.
posted by bleep at 8:28 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Selective Service, is there a reason that's still male-only?
posted by ctmf at 8:33 PM on July 2, 2012


Speaking of Selective Service, is there a reason that's still male-only?

Is there a reason it still exists?
posted by eriko at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Touche.
posted by ctmf at 8:36 PM on July 2, 2012


The last time that I suggested that the USA should consider a non-partisan electoral commission, quite a few mefites were keen to convince me that it could never happen, and that the very idea of apolitical senior public servants was not comprehensible, did not compute.
posted by wilful at 9:13 PM on July 2, 2012


Oh sure, the United States needs a system more like the system that kept the PRI in power for 71 years.

During one election, the building that housed all the ballots burned down before they could finish counting them, but the PRI was ahead at that point, so they stayed in power. The PRI was always nice enough to buy your votes if you would let them, and if you wouldn't they would beat you up. The PRI would even kill their own (e.g. Colosio) if there was the slightest hint of a break in ranks.

Mexico currently has a government which is partially funded by drug cartels. Corruption is still rampant. The history of the Mexican political process is a history of murder and unmitigated self-interest.

Only the sickest fuckhead or the most deluded ignoramus would hold that up as a shining exemplar of democratic ideals.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem is that the republicans and fox news would attack it, and, being non-partisan, they wouldn't be able to respond without being "partisan" so they'd have to acquiesces to their ridiculous demands, while democrats wouldn't say anything.

Well, an independent commission would need some time before it establishes its credibility, but the critical thing here for the US is having a national body that oversees elections, with clear, national standards for identification, voting protocol, political campaigning etc. This admittedly might sound like it's going against the whole gambit of states rights, but surely, there should be some way in which you can sustain the federal structure (i.e., having different types of elections, which is the main deal, as I see it, with "states rights") while maintaining national standards.

The alternative is accusations (whether real or otherwise) of particular states subverting the national process by their own diktat's, as is the case now.
posted by the cydonian at 9:35 PM on July 2, 2012


would hold that up as a shining exemplar of democratic ideals.

I thought they were just saying "not as daft as the US".
posted by pompomtom at 9:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Twolefeet, did you read the article? It doesn't talk about the political system, as your comment seems to. It's about the electoral system, which is now very very different and much more sofisticated than what existed during the PRI's 70 year reign.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twolefeet, did you read the article?

I did, actually, and I understand that point. Doesn't mean I'm going to feel any better about the PRI getting back in power. "Oooh, no, we're different. We've changed! We're all sweetness and light and sugarplums now. Sorry about those 70 years of murder."

Setenta anos de mordita, al setenta y uno timidez.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:51 PM on July 2, 2012


Election day should be a national holiday, or the polls should be open for more than 12 hours.
posted by schmod at 9:52 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a difficult time taking this seriously, for the simple reason that the PRI was in power in Mexico for 71 years. Whatever you may hate about the US system, no party has ever dominated things here to that extent. One party rule is inherently corrupt.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:53 PM on July 2, 2012


I have a difficult time taking this seriously, for the simple reason that the PRI was in power in Mexico for 71 years. Whatever you may hate about the US system, no party has ever dominated things here to that extent. One party rule is inherently corrupt.

Well, IFE didn't get off the ground until the mid 1990s and the next presidential election was when Fox won in 2000. Followed by Calderon in 2006. EPN won last night bringing the PRI back into power, but rather than a complete return to the bad old days a lot of it could be that Mexicans tired of PAN and they might follow a similar pattern of party rule going forward. I would have liked to see AMLO win but I think his politics are too far left for the northern states. I also wonder if Mexico was ready to elect a woman which might by why PAN didn't do as well. I mean, I know a lot of progressive Mexicans that wouldn't have a problem with a woman president but there's also a lot of patriarchy once you're out of the cities.
posted by birdherder at 10:08 PM on July 2, 2012


Doesn't mean I'm going to feel any better about the PRI getting back in power.

Well it kind of does make a difference. When you have a corrupt electoral system and corrupt politics, everything sucks. When you have a decent electoral system and shitty politics, at least the pathway towards democracy is getting shorter. Aside from a few random situations, these elections have been the smothest ever in Mexico. Everyone I know who participated either with IFE or as voluntary observers feel proud of the elections, regardless of the (awful, makes-me-want-to-cry) results.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:25 PM on July 2, 2012


Smoothest, not smothest
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:26 PM on July 2, 2012


Then afterwards one of the elders, who thought deeply, had an idea. He was a great doctor among these people, their medicine-man, and he had a very philosophical and inventive mind, and the idea of curing Nunez of his peculiarities appealed to him. One day when Yacob was present he returned to the topic of Nunez. "I have examined Nunez," he said, "and the case is clearer to me. I think very probably he might be cured."

"This is what I have always hoped," said old Yacob.

"His brain is affected," said the blind doctor.

The elders murmured assent.

"Now, what affects it?"

"Ah!" said old Yacob.

This," said the doctor, answering his own question. "Those queer things that are called the eyes, and which exist to make an agreeable depression in the face, are diseased, in the case of Nunez, in such a way as to affect his brain. They are greatly distended, he has eyelashes, and his eyelids move, and consequently his brain is in a state of constant irritation and distraction."

"Yes?" said old Yacob. "Yes?"

"And I think I may say with reasonable certainty that, in order to cure him complete, all that we need to do is a simple and easy surgical operation--namely, to remove these irritant bodies."

"And then he will be sane?"

"Then he will be perfectly sane, and a quite admirable citizen."

"Thank Heaven for science!" said old Yacob, and went forth at once to tell Nunez of his happy hopes.


-H.G.Wells
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:30 PM on July 2, 2012


Hmm.

Canada requires Voter ID.

Mexico requires Voter ID.

Hmm.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:29 PM on July 2, 2012


If the U.S. gets Voter ID, the entire right-wing and libertarian segment will use it as an excuse to scream "North American Union!"
posted by Apocryphon at 12:00 AM on July 3, 2012


Was anyone else relieved to find out that the link in the FPP doesn't go to a Cracked.com article?
posted by MattMangels at 3:47 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canada's voter ID rules are very flexible BTW - drivers license or other photo ID, OR mail from an institution like the phone company with your name on it (+something else), and there is the option of adding your name to the voters list at the poll.

It doesn't have to a barrier to voting by those without means.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:58 AM on July 3, 2012


You know, I'm convinced. American democracy is obviously very healthy. May the best fundraiser win.
posted by pompomtom at 5:50 AM on July 3, 2012


Election day should be a national holiday,

All the American states permit early voting via postal ballot. How is it more of a hinderance to mail a postal ballot on the day of your choosing than to go to the local school on a specific day to cast a vote?

The envelopes provided are even postage free which according to my calculations costs less than having to drive any distance.
posted by three blind mice at 6:46 AM on July 3, 2012


All the American states permit early voting via postal ballot.

Yes, but maybe not for you. 21 states restrict eligibility for absentee ballots in one way or another.

In Virginia, you must cite one of several reasons (the most common of which is a workday and commute adding up to 11 hours or more during the time polls are open), the liberal or conservative interpretation of which is up to the county electoral board. Northern, suburban jurisdictions with long commute times are known to be very lenient, which is not always true elsewhere.

Republicans usually are vehemently against no-excuse absentee voting precisely because it makes voting easier.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2012


All the American states permit early voting via postal ballot.

That doesn't seem to be strictly corrrect. While all states allow for absentee voting many of them require valid excuses. Indiana for example essentially requires absence from the county or for you to be working the entirety of the 12 hours the polling stations are open. If you are working a 7-5, 10 hour shift no absentee ballot for you. Missouri doesn't allow absentee voting because of work unless you are working on the election. Same with New York except working at a polling station is not a valid excuse. But West Virginia has inconvience listed as a valid excuse.

Interestingly many states that have restrictions on absentee balloting allow old people (60 or 65+) to vote absentee unrestricted. So the poor single parent working two jobs is shut out but senior citizens aren't. And it's not about infirmity as that is also usually a valid excuse.
posted by Mitheral at 7:34 AM on July 3, 2012


How is it more of a hinderance to mail a postal ballot on the day of your choosing than to go to the local school on a specific day to cast a vote?

Depends on your mobility and postal facility availability (or the lack thereof, especially in rural areas). If you don't have a car or are injured/sick, it might be very difficult.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2012


Here's a crazy idea: Let anybody physically in the country vote exactly once, at whatever polling station they want. Give them an indelible mark on the hand to prevent repeat voting*. So what if tourists vote? They're so overwhelmingly outnumbered by permanent residents that it doesn't matter. So what if illegal immigrants vote? They live here too, governed by the same laws and government.



* okay, you could cut off the hand to get another vote, but that's hardly a sustainable strategy for voter fraud
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2012


a national biometric ID

A solution in search of a problem. Despite bring conservative rationalization for why they lost the last presidential election, election fraud is not a significant problem in this country. As BeeDo says, it's not really about election integrity; it's part of a law enforcement wishlist.

Election day should be a national holiday,

That will only help if you have a professional job that closes the office on a holiday. Those people tend to vote already. It should be a holiday, sure, but it would have impact to move elections to Saturday.
posted by spaltavian at 10:11 AM on July 3, 2012


"...there are only three countries in North America."

And with a simple factual error he guaranteed that I wouldn't even touch TFA. I have serious doubts about both the article and the author.
posted by no relation at 8:12 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree. Free Newfoundland.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:46 AM on July 4, 2012


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