Mexico to cut elections funding, ease online voting

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s ruling party quickly pushed through an electoral reform Wednesday that reduces funding for the country’s electoral oversight agency.

Officials said the changes will also make it easier for millions of Mexican migrants living abroad to vote in domestic elections via the internet.

Mexicans living abroad — mostly in the United States — could already vote online, but could only do so with their voter ID cards, which have to be renewed periodically in person. The changes allow potential voters to use other documents like passports or consular ID cards.

The changes now go for discussion to the Senate, where approval is likely.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not get the broader changes he wanted, which would have reduced the size of Congress and made legislators more beholden to their parties.

López Obrador has argued that the Federal Electoral Institute costs Mexico too much money. He has long feuded with the institute over a number of issues, including limits on officials campaigning while in office.

Opposition parties were able to block the broader reforms, which required a two-thirds majority to make changes to the Constitution.

But López Obrador’s Morena party had the simple majority needed to push through funding cuts of about $175 million for the electoral agency early Wednesday. The agency’s annual budget is currently about $1 billion per year.

The president depicted the conflicts as an issue of overpaid and wasteful election officials, and political parties that didn’t want to see reductions in the number of legislators or the significant government funding they receive.

Mexico’s elections are costly — most campaign expenses and even the daily operating expenses of Mexico’s political parties are largely state-funded. Almost all that money flows through the electoral institute, which also administers voter identification cards nationwide.

López Obrador said the reforms approved Wednesday would also prohibit giving debit or cash cards to voters, an increasingly frequent campaign tactic in recent years.

While Mexican law prohibits offering money in exchange for votes, some politicians have gotten around that by distributing inactive or empty cash cards, and promising voters the cards would be activated if they win.

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