In the summer of 2006, election administration in Mexico was put to the test as Andrés Manuel López Obrador contested Felipe Calderón's razor-thin margin of victory in the Mexican presidential election. On March 26, 2007, the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project hosted a discussion moderated by AEI's Norman J. Ornstein on the lessons the United States and other democracies can learn from the Mexican electoral system.
Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute, the government agency that runs Mexican elections, gave a speech on the strengths of the Mexican electoral system. Ugalde presided over the 2006 elections and ultimately certified Calderón as the victor. He remarked that "Mexico's electoral system has been lauded internationally as one of the models to follow, given that the system was built after many decades in which the elections were accused of being fraudulent."
He explained that poll workers in Mexico are selected at random--some 1 million citizens--to work on election day. "You can always count on citizens to organize clean elections," Ugalde said. Mexico provides and requires a national voter identification card, which helps eliminate double voting and election fraud. Seventy-one million of the cards have been issued in Mexico and 96 percent of eligible Mexicans have one, according to Ugalde.
Robert Pastor of American University has been observing Mexican elections since 1986. He compared the United States and Mexico, noting, "The source of the problem in the United States is the decentralization of the electoral system. . . . It is so decentralized that it has become dysfunctional."
What can we learn from our neighbor to the south? Pastor argued that the United States should emulate Mexico's highly professional, autonomous, and impartial system. He also urged the United States to fix one of its most significant electoral weaknesses: "The United States has one of the worst voter-registration systems in the world."