Friday, August 11, 2006

Mexico election: And the count goes on, smiley faces and all

We're in the third day of Mexico's historic vote recount. All major news sources are reporting no meaningful changes to the original outcome as predicted by the preliminary results released back on July 2 and 3. The most glaring glitch so far has been 1500 ballots challenged by AMLO's PRD representative in one district. He charges that the 1500 ballots were all marked by the same person. Those ballots have been sealed and sent to Mexico City where the 7 TEPJF magistrates will review them and decide their fate.

The PRD is slowing down the process, and that's to be expected. The PRD's goal is to try to cast enough doubt on the original vote count to force the TEPJF to order a 100% country-wide recount. So the PRD has to note and challenge every tiny discrepancy that they can find. In spite of this, most notably in Yucatan, the PRD reps have been cooperative enough to allow the recount in those districts to proceed quite rapidly.

In others, however, confrontation has been the norm. On Tuesday, in one district, the PRD rep challenged every PAN vote where the "X" marked by the voter ran out of the rectangle. The PAN rep got so disgusted that he told the magistrate he would proceed to challenge every PRD vote in a likewise manner until the magistrate annulled the entire district's vote. The PRD rep backed down after a 15 minute negotiation.

In another district yesterday, the PRD rep challenged a PAN vote because the voter had gone back over the "X" a second time. The frustrated magistrate grabbed the ballot, erased the second mark, and then said, "Ok, is that better now?" He allowed the vote to be counted. The PRD rep raised such a stink that the magistrate had him dragged out of the recount area by the military. They waited for a replacement and then carried on the recount when the new PRD rep arrived.

In yet another district, things bogged down because the PRD rep challenged a null vote where the voter had written "Si" in the PRD rectangle and "No" in that of the PAN. AMLO's man wanted that vote counted. The magistrate ruled that the vote was, indeed, null, because the law says a ballot may only be marked in one rectangle and the mark must be an "X". After an argument, the ballot was sent to Mexico City for the tribunal's ruling. This same PRD rep later challenged a PAN vote because the voter, after marking the ballot correctly, added a smiley face. The smiley face ballot is on its way to Mexico City also.

In one district, the magistrate is trying to keep everything as light and running as smoothly as possible. He opened yet another sealed paquete and said, "Look. Nothing in my hands, nothing up my sleeve," as he displayed the envelopes removed from the paquete. The PRD rep said, " I know you guys are just waiting for me to get careless." Later, after counting all the votes in an envelope, the magistrate said, "There. Count'em again or is that ok? You tell me, I just count." Then, at the lunch break, the PRD rep asked a soldier to stand guard over the envelopes. The PAN rep said, "Hey, just take them with you. We don't want to have to do this again, ballot by ballot and envelope by envelope."

One change is being noted by some of the news media. On Tuesday, the first day of the recount, many of the district headquarters where the recounts were taking place were surrounded by AMLO's supporters. Chanting, "Recount them all," and "Vote by vote," they carried signs and banners and marched or stood around all day. Yesterday there were far fewer of them and today the media is reporting that very few have returned. One lady who sells bread on the street outside a district headquarters said, "This is not going to change anything. This is just another big expense for the town."

And so it goes.

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