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Mexico Election Vote Count Begins Today

Mexico Election Vote Count Begins Today
Under Cloud of Uncertainty

Electoral Commission's Mistakes Undermine Credibility of the Election

Center for Economic and Policy Research

The credibility of Mexico's electoral process was
thrown into question on Tuesday morning when the head of Mexico's
Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), Luis Carlos Ugalde, acknowledged
that as many as 4 million votes had not been counted in the
preliminary vote count that began after the polls closed on Sunday.

Mr. Ugalde said some 2.6 million votes were set aside "because the
poll reports were illegible or had other inconsistencies," and another
estimated 600,000 ballots "might not have reached his offices to be
included in the preliminary count" (New York Times, "Vote-by-Vote
Recount Is Demanded in Mexico," July 5, 2006) [
]. According to the IFE's preliminary results, 827,317 votes – another
2 percent of votes cast – were nullified (see here).

The total number of votes not counted is thus, according to the IFE,
more than 4 million, or nearly 10 percent of all votes cast. This
would be equivalent to more than 12 million votes not counted in the
U.S. presidential election of 2004.

"Calderon's lead in the preliminary vote count appears to be
statistically meaningless*, since the excluded votes are more than 10
times as large as his margin over Lopez Obrador," said economist Mark
Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.The preliminary vote count of the IFE showed Felipe Calderon of the
conservative National Action Party (PAN) leading left challenger
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party
(PRD) by one percentage point.

Weisbrot questioned why the Federal Electoral Institute did not inform
the public about the more than 3 million votes not included in the
preliminary vote count, until about a day and a half had passed, and
only after the PRD has raised the issue of "3 million missing votes."
(The 827,317 nullified votes were listed with the preliminary count on
the IFE's web site).

Until Ugalde revealed the missing votes in a television interview on
Tuesday morning, most people, including journalists reporting on the
election, understood the preliminary vote count to have encompassed
about 98.5 percent of the total, thus making Calderon's one percent
lead look nearly insurmountable.

The withholding of this important information allowed the Calderon
campaign and its allies to create a widespread impression that their
candidate was the likely winner — an impression that persists in the
media today, despite the fact that the preliminary count was nowhere
near complete and therefore could not provide evidence of a winner.
All of this is important because it influences the political context
in which further decisions about the elections and vote tallying will
be made.

"The withholding of information about ballots not counted calls into
question the impartiality of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute,"
said Weisbrot. "At this point, given the long history of electoral
fraud in Mexico, the extreme closeness of the vote, and widespread
distrust of the process, a full and carefully monitored recount may be
necessary to restore public confidence in the result."

*The preliminary count would be statistically significant if the votes
not counted were a random sample of the total; however, there is no
reason to believe that it is a random sample, and a number of
indications that it is systematically biased toward PRD voters. For
example, the PRD campaign has alleged that in some of the southern
states where their support is strongest, there were more votes for
congress than for president, an unprecedented and unlikely event,
indicating that many of Lopez Obrador's votes in those areas have not
yet been counted.

[The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent,
nonpartisan think tank that promotes democratic debate on the most
important economic and social issues affecting people's lives. CEPR's
Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert
Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at
Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of
the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.]