COLUMN: Volunteering as an election observer in Mexico

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Francisco Diaz, assistant county clerk, writes that Mexico has an “almost identical” electoral process to that of the United States.

This column was written by resident Francisco Diaz. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliate contributors.

Mexico is a from the most diverse places in the world. With a population of around 126 million, Mexico is the 10e most populous country in the world. The history of democracy in Mexico dates back to the creation of the Federal Republic of Mexico in 1824.

Legislative elections were held in Mexico on June 6. The election included 30 state congresses, 1,900 city halls, Mexico City district mayors, city councils and city presidents. The regional director of the National Electoral Institute (INE) of the municipality of Ixtlahuacán de los Membrilos authorized me to act as an electoral observer. It is a municipality with approximately 38,000 registered voters located near the city of Guadalajara.

I was excited on polling day and reached the polling station half an hour before the official start time. However, the opening of the polling station was delayed due to confusion in setting up the electoral reference material, but the poll captain and INE officials diligently resolved the issue.

Voters showed great vigor and zeal and turned out in large numbers to vote. In the morning the electoral process was a bit slow, but as the sun went down and the afternoon approached, the polling station was packed with people. They must have stood in line for about half an hour before voting.

Political parties are heavily involved in Mexico during elections. Here, all 10 parties had their observers present at the polling place and they had the right to oppose any decision perceived to be unfair or questionable. To oppose, a party would have to file a protest. If this protest was legal and the opposing party was involved in wrongdoing, their votes would be suppressed. In one of the polling stations I visited, the ballot was delayed by 45 minutes because parties, the election captain and election officials were in the process of resolving a conflict.

Closing the polling stations was rather interesting but tedious because the person counting the ballots had to do it manually. More tedious because the count was done three times to make sure everything was right. Sometimes, if the losing party objected, then it had to count the ballots again.

Due to this counting and recounting of the ballots, the closing of the polling stations was delayed by three hours. Once the results were confirmed and everyone approved them, the polling stations were closed.

Finally, the ballots were escorted in a caravan of 21 cars to the central counting location. The unofficial result was announced around 12 noon. This was followed by huge celebrations in the central plaza where over 5,000 people were present to roar and applaud their party.

This was just a brief summary of a long 17 hour day. The electoral system in Mexico is almost identical to the one in our country, just that Mexico relies much less on technology.

For me it was a hell of a experience and I really enjoyed it. The best time was indeed when the elderly and the disabled were allowed to break the line and vote before others. It was truly a heartwarming experience.

Watch a video on the San Benito County Elections Facebook page where I answer several questions about this experience.

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