Mexico's Election Policy Revolution

Posted by Author Lane Baldwin on April 04, 2017

In 2014 the Mexican Government, led by President Enrique Pena Nieto, adopted an electoral reform package containing a number of policies such as the adoption of an independent redistricting commission. These changes have been hailed by reformers, but also include more controversial policies such as the easing of a ban on re-election to the legislature.

Recent changes that Mexico accomplished in their legislative reform marked inspirational advancements and revealed more opportunity for better representation of the voting constituents to their elected candidates. Mexico’s recently passed reform package ended their ban on re-elections for legislators, while keeping it in place for governors and the president, which they believe will make the legislators more accountable to their voting constituents, as opposed to their parties. While this embrace of accountable governance seems admirable, Mexico must remain cautious of this policy. Our studies indicate that incumbent retention can create entrenched bias in states and districts, leading to under-representation of voting constituents that fall outside the norm.

The election package, passed in 2014 by the Mexican Congress for the purposes of addressing inner-government coalition concerns, has re-invented Mexico’s electoral process. The electorate and candidates now enjoy a new national electoral body, reformed re-election policies that no longer prohibit an incumbent candidate, the possibility of election annulment, a sanction of electoral offenses, an increase of governments checks and balances and political coalitions, more accessibility to vote abroad and promote gender parity, allow independent candidates to campaign more competitively, and to enable the creation of more political parties. Each of these factors stand to create a profound influence on Mexican democracy.

Given that legislators in Mexico are now free to pursue reelection, they will have the power to campaign with incumbency status, which must be kept in check to allow for fair representation of their electorate. Their election is even more secure and less representative if the district lines are drawn in a manner that ensures more partisan bias. Therefore, in order to ensure fair representation, independent redistricting commissions are important. Mexico has a chance to adopt fair districts through its newly organized agency, the national electoral institute (INE). The INE functions as a nonpartisan, independent redistricting organization, whose duties include electoral regulations, operating procedures, and legal standards at the local and federal level.

In the spirit of fair representation, FairVote sees these efforts to implement independent redistricting commissions as an admirable step towards fair representation. That said, the country must be cautious of the drawbacks of incumbent campaigning that U.S. voters are so familiar with. FairVote's findings concerning redistricting reform in the U.S. House of Representatives demonstrate how such commissions can solve the problems caused by partisan redistricting, which is shown to influence election results. However even with commissions, Mexico should be wary of the lessons learned from the United State’s current Congress, which suffers from winner-take-all districts that further hinder fair representation.

In conclusion, Fairvote believes that redistricting efforts in Mexico and the USA have significant potential to improve. Mexico's undoing of their incumbency ban can allow the electorate to follow up on their legislator’s campaign promises, as opposed to the non-incumbent rule which allowed for candidates to forgo their campaign promises upon winning an election, and revisions to its redistricting procedure are a step forward. The US could also learn from Mexico's legislative apportionment structure, which includes some proportional representation in addition to independent redistricting. By implementing multi-winner-districts, ranked choice voting, and independent redistricting into the electoral reform package, good governance can be kept safe from the negative consequences of incumbent campaigning and unfair electoral structures.

 

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