Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mexico election: Recount update

Mark in Mexico Pale Horse Galleries A good look at Mexico election paquetes ready for recount in Monterrey
A good look at paquetes ready for recount in Monterrey

There is really not much to update. The recount of 11,839 polls of the more than 131,000 has, so far, not changed anything. As an example, in the District 20 recount in Iztapalapa (Mexico City suburb), AMLO gained 6 votes while Calderon lost 9, for a net AMLO gain of 15, but in District 5 of Tlalpan (Mexico City suburb), Calderón gained 21 votes and López Obrador gained 4 for a net gain by Calderon of 17 votes. This is how it is pretty much going all across the country.

AMLO has reacted swiftly to the bad news, convening his people for a little speech yesterday afternoon in the Zócalo where he maintained that he rejects the recount. He insisted that the PRD was only participating so that his opponents could not claim that he had no respect for Mexican election law. Har.

AMLO has made it a point to buttress his accusations of fraud with, as AMLO says, his opponent's, Felipe Calderon's, refusal to agree to a full recount. A few left-wing commenters on this blog have also used that argument. Let me try, once again and at the risk of sounding redundant, to explain why this is a false argument.

Under Mexican law, all the candidates, the president, the Supreme Court justices, the drug cartel leaders and everybody else up to and including Mickey Mouse could have agreed to a recount and it would have made no difference. The election magistrates cannot, under the law, order recounts except under tightly defined rules. Those rules are designed to prevent the opening of sealed ballot containers except under very stringently defined circumstances. Just because someone, or even everyone, agrees that a recount would be a nice thing to do, the law, except in some very special cases, does not permit it.

Here is an example that may help you. Let's take a civil court case in a USA court. The jury renders its verdict. Neither side in the case likes the verdict. So both the plantiffs and the defendants in the case agree that they want a new trial. They tell the judge, "We've agreed that we want a new trial because we didn't like the results of the last one." What would the judge say? "Get lost, and quickly," is what he would say.

Let's say that the election magistrates had arbitrarily ruled for a 100% recount. All it would take would be for any Mexican citizen, or, more likely the PRI, to challenge that ruling and the election magistrates would be forced under the law to vacate their own decision. No magistrate or group of magistrates, in Mexico or the USA or anywhere else for that matter, are going to put themselves in such a position.

Mexican election law is also designed to avoid the ballot containers - the paquetes - from ever being assembled in one place at the same time. They are spread out all over the country. This is to preclude the possibility of the type of massive fraud that AMLO is claiming occurred.

Here is some of the silliness being perpetrated by AMLO's recount watchers. When the very first paquete was opened and recounted yesterday and it was found that Calderon had gained a vote, a PRD spokesman immediately went before the press to claim that this one vote error demonstrated that a 100% recount was necessary.

In a district up north somewhere yesterday, all the players arrived at the warehouse where the paquetes were stored. The PRD representative immediately began crying foul because the warehouse had two doors, both sealed, but the seal on one door had been signed by the the District Committee president and vice president, while the seal on the other door had been signed by those two as well as each of the party representatives who were present when the seals were placed. "Fraud," cried the PRD rep.

The presiding magistrate listened to this folly, then said that, since neither seal had been broken and neither door had been opened, the objection was denied. You don't overturn an election because of alleged missing signatures that may or may not have been required on a seal that obviously hasn't been broken.

In reading the various news reports throughout the day yesterday and this morning, it is beginning to appear that many of the mistakes being found were human error caused by exhaustion. On July 2, the poll workers, about 1 million of them, all had to get up at the crack of dawn and report to their polls, about 131,000 of them. They worked all day conducting the vote. Then, at the closure of the polls, they worked, in many cases, all through the night to count the votes, fill out the proper paperwork and then affix all the proper signatures and seals and to complete all the other mundane requirements of Mexican election law. Lots of mistakes were made.

In one case yesterday, a paquete was found to possibly have 4 missing ballots. Between the total ballots reported cast, the total ballots available and the balance of ballots not cast, 4 came up missing. Where are they? Nobody knows. Were they cast for anybody? Nobody knows. Should the poll workers have realized that their counts didn't match? Probably. And maybe they all did, but were so tired by that point that everyone just signed off on the results, sealed the paquete and went home to bed.

These are, however, isolated cases that have turned up during the recount. Will they be enough for the magistrates to order a full recount? I doubt it because, under Mexican law, the errors would have to be sufficient as to indicate that the final result of the election might be affected. If, at the end of all this, which is scheduled for Sunday, the recount results do not appear to have materially changed the outcome as originally reported from these 11,839 precincts, the magistrates will probably be prepared to call the election for Felipe Calderon.

As one recount watcher reported from Vera Cruz, "We've recounted about 90% (of 116 precincts ordered recounted). In some precincts the PRD gained one or two votes but in others they lost one or two. So we're right where we started."

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