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Mexico: Null Ballots and Low Turnout Expected on Election Day

Sunday, July 5 will be a day for elections in Mexico. Positions for governors in several states, more than 600 positions for mayors and other public representatives will be filled. However, an important percentage of the Mexicans citizens are expected to forgo their right to vote and some have decided to turn in a null ballot.

According to Mexican newspaper Milenio [es], 10% of the ballots of the elections are expected to be nullified as a way to express political discontent. According to the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación , TEPJF), abstinence could reach 70%, as declared to newspaper El Norte [es, requires subscription].

There are many known reasons to avoid voting for any political party. They include feeling a lack of representation by the candidates and their proposals, the inefficiency of the current public representatives, the lack of credibility in the Mexican electoral system, and media manipulation of the electoral campaigns. Illustration artist and blogger Edgar Clement explains in his blog [es] that he will nullify his vote unless four conditions are met:

…que los diputados y senadores se bajen el sueldo por lo menos un 50%…
…que se eliminen las candidaturas plurinominales. Queremos que nos gobierne aquel por quien votamos, no el que al partido se le antoje…
…Que nuestros trabajadores en el Estado vayan al ISSSTE, que es gratuito, y si no les gusta, que paguen su doctor particular con su sueldo y/o que se pongan a trabajar para arreglar el ISSSTE…
…que ni el IFE [Instituto Federal Electoral] ni ningún partido anuncien nada en ninguna televisora durante todo este proceso electoral y que ningún comentarista ni “comunicador” intente manipular mi tendencia al voto o mi derecho a la anulación de éste…

…that the deputies and the senators lower their salaries by at least 50%…
…that plurinominal candidacies are eliminated. We want to be represented by those who we vote for and not for someone chosen by the party…
…that our workers in the State go to ISSSTE [public health services], which is free, and if they don’t like it, they should pay their private doctor with their own salary and/or work to fix the ISSSTE…
…that neither the IFE [Federal Electoral Institute] nor any political party promote their campaigns on any television network during the electoral process and that no commentator or “analyst” try to influence my vote or my right to nullify it…

This proposal is known as “I will nullify my vote” [“Yo anularé mi voto”] and is capturing the attention of the Internet public through a video created by user Tona Moreno, which is shared on YouTube:

In the video, Tona says:

Yo me considero un ciudadano responsable. Voto en todas las elecciones, pago mis impuestos, cuando me ha tocado ser funcionario de casilla voy con mucho gusto, y así como ciudadano responsable, creo que ya tenemos que ponerle un alto a esto. Creo que ya estamos hartos de estarles legitimando a estos funcionarios, a estos diputados, que lo único que hacen es subirse los sueldos estratosféricamente y proteger los intereses de ellos y de sus amigos.

I consider myself a responsible citizen. I vote in all elections, I pay taxes, when I’ve been chosen as an electoral observer, I gladly attend, and as a responsible citizen I think we should stop all this. I think we had enough of legitimizing these representatives, deputies, who only raise their salaries up to the sky and protect their own interests and those of their friends.

Although it seems that nullifying a ballot (selecting more than one option on the paper ballot, turning it in blank, etc.) and not voting at all are similar ways of electoral protest, among the citizens there is much discussion about their different meanings. JoséCh comments on his Twitter account [es] on the difference:

Anular el voto no es bajarse del barco. Si vas a demostrar tu hartazgo tienes también que mostrar compromiso como ciudadano.

To nullify a ballot is to stay in the boat. If you are going to show that you are tired of it all, then you also have to show your commitment as a citizen.
Intervention in ballot paper for the 2006 elections, by Felipe. Image used following a Creative Commons License: http://musica.nmty.org/2006/07/02/boletas-artisticas/

Intervention in ballot paper for the 2006 elections, by Felipe. Image used following a Creative Commons License: http://musica.nmty.org/2006/07/02/boletas-artisticas/

In the blog Hernando y la Silla [es], Ricardo Martínez replies to an editorial by Javier Corral published in newspaper El Universal in defense of the blank ballot:

Si en esta elección un movimiento ciudadano anónimo está sugiriendo desafiar a la partidocracia, eso sólo pone en entredicho su estructura inmoral de apropiación del poder, no a la democracia ni los valores que representa.

(…) Las elecciones en este momento son el único momento cuando los ciudadanos verdaderamente podemos ser escuchados. El resto del tiempo pasamos a tercer o cuarto término. Ante las pocas posibilidades, debemos aprovechar este momento para respaldar lo que todos sabemos en el fondo: los partidos políticos se han distanciado peligrosamente de los ciudadanos, y no al revés. No quieran ahora culparnos por lo que como partidos dejaron de hacer.

If in this election an anonymous citizen movement is growing to challenge the particracy, it is only because it defies its immoral structure of appropriating power, not democracy or the values it represents.

(…) These elections now are the only time when the citizens can really be heard. The rest of the time we are considered at third or fourth instances. Facing these few possibilities, we should take advantage of this moment to strengthen all we know deep down: political parties have dangerously distanced themselves from citizens, and not the other way around. They should not blame us for what the political parties did not do.

Abstinence and nullifying ballots are movements of national reach. Several opinion leaders have publicly admitted their support, among them Carlos Loret de Mola, journalist and news-anchor for an important national news show (as he stated in his column for El Universal [es]) and Denise Dresser, journalist (video [es] . There are also civil organizations that call for protest. For example, the website “Cross them all out [es]” ["Tache a todos"] promotes taking the ballot paper and crossing out all of the candidates to show their lack of support to “neither political parties or any registered candidate”. Other campaigns in this direction include “Vote in blank [es]” [“Vota en blanco”] and “Nullify your vote [es]” [“Anula tu voto”].

In a more comical approach, there are campaigns that call to vote for ‘characters’ or parody candidates. In the blog Bunsen [es], a cartoon promotes candidate Dr. Mono [Dr. Monkey], supported by the slogan “He is sadistic, he is ignorant, he is a cartoon monkey and still… he is your best option”.

In a similar way, Esperanza Marchita [es] [roughly translated as ‘Hope Withered’] is a virtual candidate promoted by the organization Propuesta Cívica. Through her Twitter she comments [es]:

Voto nulo, blanco, válido, razonado, entusiasta, conservador, liberal, idealista, alegre, rudo y cursi… pero ¡¡¡voto al fin!!!

Nullified vote, blank, valid, well-thought, enthusiastic, conservative, liberal, happy, tough and corny… but in the end, vote!!!

In her blog, she shares a story of attending the National Assembly for the Null Vote [Asamblea Nacional por el Voto Nulo], in the Federal District, where more than 30 organizations “disappointed of the political representation system” met.

Papanatas [colloquial expression for ‘dumb’] is another “virtual” and parody candidate, with the shape of a potato. Its campaign, based on its Facebook profile and blog [es] invites people to write “Papanatas” on the paper ballot to send “a clear message to political parties that enough is enough.”

According to newspaper El Universal [es], during the elections for deputies in 2006, more than one million votes were null, from a total of 77 million registered voters in the electoral roll.

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