Mexico’s ballot format

Update: it is clear now that I misinterpreted the rule. (In my defense, the linked story presents the matter less than clearly.) See the comments for clarification.

Mexico votes Sunday for president and all members of both chambers of the federal congress.

The Chamber of Deputies election has an interesting ballot format. The Deputies are elected by a Mixed-Member Majoritarian system (with caps–more below–but it is not MMP). Unlike most mixed-member systems, the voter has only one vote. The vote for a candidate in any given single-seat district also counts for the party list; that is, there is no separate list vote.

Candidates are sometimes nominated by pre-electoral coalitions. However, the parties keep their separate ballot identities. A vote is valid even if the voter marks the ballot for two or more parties in coalition. However, such a vote would count only for the candidate, and not for any of the parties’ list. This is an unusual provision, and I am not aware offhand of anything similar elsewhere. (See earlier thread, and comment by Manuel, in which this feature was mentioned.)

15 thoughts on “Mexico’s ballot format

  1. MSS, are you sure about that? My reading of the new law is a bit different. I think what happens is:

    1) The coalitions don’t appear on the ballot at all, just the parties. So some candidates appear several times.

    2) The voter can vote for the same candidate as many times is they show up on the ballot. The candidate receives one vote; the votes are divided between the parties (integrally, using largest remainder).

    It does seem like an extraordinarily bizarre system, and one which will not be easy to explain (and, indeed, I couldn’t find a good explanation; Manuel’s is useful, but not official.)

    The electoral code says at Article 95, paragraph 9:

    9. Independientemente del tipo de elección, convenio y términos que en el mismo adopten los partidos coaligados, cada uno de ellos aparecerá con su propio emblema en la boleta electoral, según la elección de que se trate; los votos se sumarán para el candidato de la coalición y contarán para cada uno de los partidos políticos para todos los efectos establecidos en este Código.

    That almost sounds like your multiple votes count multiple times, but it doesn’t really mean that, I’m sure.

    So the first step is to count the votes (in the casilla):

    Article 274, Paragraph 3:

    3. Cuando el elector marque en la boleta dos o más cuadros y exista coalición entre los partidos cuyos emblemas hayan sido marcados, el voto contará para el candidato de la coalición y se registrará por separado en el espacio correspondiente del acta de escrutinio y cómputo de casilla.

    And finally we get to Article 295, paragraph 1(c), where the tallies are being processed:

    c) En su caso, se sumarán los votos que hayan sido emitidos a favor de dos o más partidos coaligados y que por esa causa hayan sido consignados por separado en el apartado correspondiente del acta de escrutinio y cómputo de casilla. La suma distrital de tales votos se distribuirá igualitariamente entre los partidos que integran la coalición; de existir fracción, los votos correspondientes se asignarán a los partidos de más alta votación.

    So the way I’m reading all this is that the tally forms have to have a count for every possible combination of parties in a coalition. This would be a nightmare if there were lots of coalesced parties; even with just three parties in a coalition, you end up with seven different places to record each possible voting combination for that coalition. At the count in the polling station, the counters only fill in these various tallies; in the district office, the coalition votes are summed up and distributed to the parties for the purposes of the proportionally-allocated seats.

    There are seven parties in the running in this election; two of them (PRI and the Greens) are in a partial coalition (199 joint deputy elections and 20 joint senatorial elections). Three of them (PRD, PT and the Movimiento Ciudadano) are in a full coalition. PAN is running on its own, I gather than Nueva Alianza had originally been in the PRI/Green coalition, but pulled out in January. All these agreements are on the IFE page, but it doesn’t clarify why there are three coalition agreements listed for Compromiso Mexico.

    Anyway, that should mean that the tally sheets will need to have seven rows for each individual party, plus four legitimate two-way votes (PRI/Green, PRD/MC, PRD/PT, PT/MC) and one three-way vote (PRD/PT/MC) for a total of 12. That’s manageable, I suppose. I’m curious to see whether this will be reflected in the rapid count on Sunday.

    All in all, I’ve got to say that Mexico has gone to really a lot of trouble to create an almost impeccable vote-counting structure on top of a voting system which is seriously weird.

  2. If the PRI wins the presidency, will that be the only case of a former entrenched hegemonic party returning to power under democratic conditions?

    Golkar in Indonesia did manage to elect a vice-president, running with the current president, but lost it when SBY was elected to a second term. The most embarrassing fate for a dethroned party was probably South Africa where the National Party actually merged with the ANC.

  3. Alan,

    I was just reading Martin Tanaka’s column in today’s La Republica [1], in which he points to what we might call (although he doesn’t) regime resurrection.

    In addition to the (probable) victory of PRI in Mexico today, he suggests some other cases of hegemonic return, including the probably return of the Partido Colorado in Paraguay, following the destitution of Lugo the other day, and the various returns of the Partido Justicialista (the party of Peron) in Argentina. To that list, I would consider adding the case of the Liberal Party of Canada (under Chretien in 1993; the jury is still out as to whether they’ll manage it again.)

    On the other hand, several former hegemonic parties seem to have been definitively eradicated by newcomers. Tanaka lists Accion Democratica (Venezuela) and Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (Bolivia); there’s also the Uruguayan Colorado party, but it might still have some life in it, along with Colombia’s Liberal Party.

    Tanaka suggests two important strategies for regime resurrection:

    1. Maintain a political presence. This works particularly well in federal states. Argentina, Canada and Mexico are all examples of federal states where the hegemonic party, despite defeat at the national level, managed to maintain important provincial power bases

    2. Reinvent yourself. There’s nothing like putting a fresh face on old disgraces, even sometimes admitting them. (“Sure, the party’s old leaders were power-hungry and corrupt but this is a new generation, humbler and more dedicated to the democratic process.”)

    And of course, you can always hope that the guys who beat you suffer a spectacular collapse.

    fn 1: Just in case, you can find it atthis link, in Spanish.

  4. rici, your point 1 (in your first comment) is exactly what I understand. As for point 2, I thought what you describe was the case before the 2008 change, but not afterwards.

    If what you describe is the case now, did I mis-read the story I linked to (always possible when I am not reading English–or even when I am!), or is that source incorrect?

  5. If we count former one-party (several-parties-but-joined-in-an-only-coalition) you have also the polonian ex-comunistas, the PAICV from Cape Verde, the PAICG from Guinea.Bissau (the PAIGC counts in the two types – former only party, and former dominant-party), and probably many other ex-communists along the world.

  6. Manuel@7: Sure, but in 2009 there was no three-party coalition. In the case of a three-party coalition, I as a voter can choose to vote for one, two, or three of the parties. So effectively, for vote-distribution purposes, there are really four different coalitions, each of which needs to be counted separately. (That is, the three-party coalition, and all three possible selections of two of the three parties.)

    So probably the FAQ needs to be updated. And the article linked to by MSS in the original planting got one thing right: the way votes are distributed is hard to understand.

  7. So the story I relied on had it wrong, and the coalition provision remains the same. Thanks, Manuel, for taking us back to the primary sources, here and in the later thread!

  8. So are the FPTP and list votes fused or not?

    It turns out the PRI has only been out of power since 2000. What was their position before that? I was under the impression they’d been in opposition since democratisation, which I also assumed was earlier than that.

  9. JD: the votes are fused. Since the 2007 reform, it is necessary to disaggregate coalitions from the fused votes because there are no coalition lists.

    PRI won every Mexican presidency from 1929 until it was finally defeated in 2000, and most of them by (artificially inflated, shall we say) majorities in excess of 70%, It did change it’s name a few times along the way, but it was (and arguably is) the same party, although over the years it’s drifted from Revolutionary to Institutionalized and from left to centre.

  10. More in response to JD: the PRI lost its Chamber of Deputies majority for the first time in 1997, and has not won it back since, although in 2009 the PRI-PVEM alliance jointly had a majority of the Chamber. It lost the Senate majority for the first time in 2000, the same year it lost the presidency.

    On the federal dimension, the PRI did not lose a state governorship till 1989. After a string of losses in several states in the 1990s, the PRI has tended to stabilize at roughly two thirds of the governorships at any given time.

    Of course, the PRI probably really lost the presidency in 1988! We’ll never know, because the computers mysteriously went down on election night, and some time later there was an equally mysterious fire in the place where the ballots were stored.

    The PRI probably won the presidency fairly in 1994. Most analysts will date Mexican democratization from 1997, but a few will give the date as 2000, and I have also seen 1994 (and maybe 1991) offered. Then again, there are those that say it was essentially democratic from the 1960s or earlier!

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