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Mexico's National Electoral Institute - Explainer

Lauren TerMaat

El Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE) is an autonomous constitutionally mandated institution whose aim is to ensure free, fair, democratic elections through the oversight and organization of elections at the federal, state, and local levels in Mexico. El Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), now known as the INE, was established in 1990 following controversies around the 1988 general elections. The objective of creating the IFE was to have an impartial organization, not linked to any one political party, to instill faith, transparency, and legality in the Mexican electoral process, especially after the 71-year uninterrupted rule of the PRI.

With the passage of an electoral reform in 2014, the IFE became the INE, expanding its mandate to supervise all elections in Mexico, not just federal elections. By creating homogenous standards for elections across states, the INE ensures that no political party has influence over elections at the state or local levels. Although the INE’s main responsibilities are the oversight and organization of federal, state, and local elections, the role that the organization plays in Mexico’s democracy extends far beyond the elections themselves.

For example, the INE is responsible for issuing la Credencial de Elector, a voter ID photo card. This is the most commonly used type of identification in Mexico and for Mexican citizens abroad. It is used to authenticate bank transactions as well. The INE also safeguards the largest permanent registry of Mexican adults eligible to vote. This database, which includes certain biometric information, ensures the reliability and efficiency of the electoral process and has been used to identify bodies in criminal investigations.

In recent years, the INE has faced attacks from President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who claims that the institution is the most expensive electoral management entity in the world. AMLO has also accused INE and its members of fraud. President López Obrador has a long history of animosity toward the INE, having accused the institution of fraud after the INE upheld the results of the 2006 and 2012 elections. López Obrador lost both by a narrow margin.

In 2022, President López Obrador introduced a major electoral reform that, among other things, would have replaced the INE with a new institution, reduced the number of members of Congress, modified the way that electoral councilors were elected, and centralized power in the executive branch. AMLO’s proposed reform failed to garner the 2/3rds votes required in Congress for approval. In response to his failed electoral reform, AMLO introduced his “Plan B” in 2023, which was approved by a simple majority in both houses of the legislature.

"Plan B" sought to obstruct INE’s operations, slash its budget and personnel, and limit its capacity to identify locations for polling stations. In addition, it would have diminished INE’s ability to sanction political candidates who violate electoral laws, and its ability to verify voting credentials would be restricted. In early 2023, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled certain parts of the reform unconstitutional.

The INE remains one of the most highly regarded institutions within Mexico and worldwide, with public trust levels at more than 60% of the Mexican population, despite AMLO’s frequent attempts at discrediting the institution. In November 2022 and again in February 2023, Mexican citizens took to the streets in support of the INE, protesting AMLO’s proposed electoral reforms. These protests demonstrated that Mexicans believe that the INE serves as a fundamental institution in preserving the country’s democratic system.

The Supreme Court’s decision prevented a major overhaul of INE and guaranteed that the electoral rules that governed the 2018 presidential elections will apply to next year’s elections. The INE is preparing to organize and ensure the transparency and credibility of the upcoming 2024 general elections, which will include the largest-ever number of public positions. Despite efforts to undermine voter confidence, the INE is expected to continue to uphold the longest period of political stability and democratic governance that Mexico has ever seen.

About the Author

Lauren TerMaat

Lauren TerMaat

Staff Assistant Intern, Mexico Institute
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