Joe Mathews is a California journalist and political analyst for the Ventura County Star. He recently published an opinion piece exposing AMLO’s idea for election workers:
Where might we find a way to restore trust in our democracy?
In Mexico. And in ourselves.
You may be reading international news about a conflict over democracy in Mexico. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his congressional allies recently passed legislation to strip the country’s independent electoral authorities of some staffing, budget, and power.
That is a troubling development. But the breathless news reports leave out crucial context about how elections are actually run in Mexico. And that context should offer both reassurance about Mexico and a spark of inspiration to the rest of the world.
I know the context because I’ve spent years organizing a global forum on democracy that takes place this week in Mexico City. And despite the recent controversy, and despite the country’s well-publicized problems with security, I’ve seen Mexico’s democratic development and participatory innovations up close.
Of all the fascinating examples of Mexican democratic practice, one stands out — Mexico’s faith in everyday people to run elections.
Mexico has a system for finding election workers that is unique in the world: It holds a national lottery to draw those workers from among its citizens. The lottery system began in 1997, during Mexico’s democratic transition, as a trust-building measure for a country plagued by corruption and impunity.
The lottery draws one date and one letter. If the date is your birthday, and if the letter is the first letter of your second name, it’s your turn to work the elections.
The process has three stages. First, recruiters reach out, even visiting your home, to confirm your interest. Second, you attend training sessions before the elections. Finally, on election day, you and your neighbors run the balloting in a precinct, count votes, and fill out official totals.