Electoral Experts Warn Plan B Will Make Voting a ‘Nightmare’

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A panel of 27 electoral experts and political academics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) on Thursday, March 2, warned that, under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s recently passed electoral reform — nicknamed Plan B because it replaced his previous plan to essentially eradicate the nation’s most important electoral watchdog body, an initiative the did not pass Congress because it could not get a two-thirds majority needed to rewrite the Mexican Constitution — the upcoming gubernatorial elections in the State of Mexico and Coahuila June will be a “nightmare” to try to conduct.

An outdated electoral registry, combined with failures in the installation of polling stations, officials without training to monitor them and difficulties for rapid vote counting will, the panel said, put at risk Mexico’s ability to conduct open and democratic elections.

The roundtable panel, titled “Plan B: The 2023 Electoral Reform under Review” and sponsored by the UNAM Legal Research Institute, also warned that the president’s controversial reform — which he signed into law on Thursday, March 2, and which is being challenged by opponents before the nation’s Supreme Court (SCJN) — could endanger the credibility of the electoral results.

“Election day could turn into a real nightmare. There will be monumental problems in electoral logistics, a serious decline in citizen confidence and numerous political problems that this entails will be of reserved prognosis,” concluded UNAM political analysts María Marván and Javier Martín Reyes.

“With the new proposed structure, it will be very difficult to develop a reliable preliminary results program or quick count. There will be neither qualified personnel nor reasonable terms to carry out drills that would guarantee robust information systems.”

For example, they said, in the auxiliary offices — which were previously called district boards — the work that was formerly coordinated by five trained members of the National Electoral Institute (INE) will now be supervised by just one untrained person who will not have a full grasp of how the procedure is supposed to work.

Moreover, they said, these officials will have control of the entire electoral process, including the installation of polling stations, the updating of the nominal list and the training of polling station officials. They will have to also monitor the credentialing modules, control party interventions and carry out the administration of voting documentations.

“As a result, this one-person supervision of the entire process would put in doubt the validity of the polling results,” Marván and Reyes said.

The panel also determined that while Plan B would theoretically represent a savings of 3.5 billion pesos, it does not detail how these savings would be accomplished nor take into account the costs of transforming the country’s current electoral bodies.

Former Mexican electoral adviser Jacqueline Peschard, who also participated in the panel, said that if the Supreme Court does not reverse Plan B, the all-important electoral process of 2024 to determine the country’s next president would likewise take place in the midst of political uncertainty and electoral incredibility.

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