Could the PRI have bought its electoral result in the 2012 Mexican election? Probably Not.

The following is a guest post from University of Chicago political scientist Alberto Simpser. The first chapter of his forthcoming book, Why Governments and Parties Manipulate Elections: Theory, Practice, and Implications, can be found here.

The PRI won the presidency in the July 1st Mexican election, but the dust has not settled yet (see Marco A. Morales’s excellent post on this). Given the safeguards in place and the electoral commission’s (IFE) stewardship, election fraud almost certainly did not occur on a large scale. Vote buying, however, apparently did, as numerous media reports and YouTube videos suggest. A serious allegation is circulating: that the PRI in fact would have lost a clean election to the runner up, the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), and that its electoral result stemmed from massive vote buying. I have no evidence about whether this allegation is in fact true. Rather, in this note I explore the plausibility of the accusation by estimating how much money it would have cost the PRI to obtain the result it did. The credibility of the ensuing estimates, of course, depends on the solidity of the underlying assumptions. By clarifying my assumptions, I hope to spark informed debate on the question.

I use three pieces of information: the number of votes that the PRI would have needed to buy in order to obtain the result it did, the effectiveness of vote buying (i.e. the rate at which vote buying attempts translate into actual votes), and the cost per vote. I leave out other potentially important factors, such as payments to vote brokers and embezzlement of funds by these brokers.

The PRI obtained about 3.2 million votes more than the PRD (equivalent to about 6.5% of cast votes). Because the PRD could also have bought votes, as some have alleged it did, this figure is a lower bound on the amount of votes that the PRI would have needed to buy in order to upend the election outcome (assuming, for simplicity, that no other forms of vote manipulation were used).

The effectiveness of vote buying depends on a variety of factors. For one thing, ballot secrecy means that many citizens can take the money and vote their conscience. The PRI is alleged to have violated ballot secrecy through the use of cell phone pictures, as well as children who allegedly accompanied voters into the booth; but it is unlikely to have been able to verify every single vote it bought. Effectiveness also depends on the counterfactual scenario: whether and how the bribe recipient would have voted in the absence of a bribe. Even with perfect observability and enforcement, it is possible to waste a bribe on a PRI loyalist who planned to vote anyway. I do not have data on effectiveness for Mexico, so I use an estimate from the literature, based on a survey of Argentinean citizens in 2000-2001 (Brusco, Nazareno and Stokes 2004). Only 16% of surveyed citizens who received a bribe said that it influenced their vote. There exist additional factors that could impact effectiveness, such as embezzlement by brokers. I ignore those in my calculations here (Wang and Kurzman 2007 estimate money “leakage” in a 1993 Taiwan election at upwards of 45%).

Estimates of the cost per vote bought range from 100 to 1,800 pesos. A YouTube video suggests that 100 was low enough to insult the recipient, while 1,800 (a figure implied in recent allegations by AMLO about the amount of money spent and the number of votes bought by the PRI in the state of Mexico) was substantially more than at least some brokers appear to have received for their services. I use 700 pesos, reported on some internet videos, as my best guess (as a point of comparison, a study of the 2000 Mexican election suggests a price per vote of 250 to 500 pesos).

Based on these assumptions, the estimated cost to the PRI of stealing the election through vote buying is 3.2 million actual votes * 700 pesos per vote bought / 16% actual votes per vote bought = 14,000 million pesos approximately (roughly equivalent to USD $1 billion). This is an underestimate insofar as it leaves out brokerage costs and assumes that the PRD bought zero votes. It is an overestimate insofar as vote-buying effectiveness was greater than I have assumed, or if the price per vote figure is too high. At 100% effectiveness, the estimate is 3.2 * 700 = 2,240 million pesos.

What do costs of this magnitude imply? As a point of comparison, the total campaign funding of the PRI-PVEM coalition was about 1,390 million pesos (according to Alianza Cívica’s July 3 press bulletin), far less than even the smaller figure estimated here. This suggests that, if the PRI bought its electoral result, it must have done so with unaccounted-for funds. It is not inconceivable that the PRI should have access to such extra-official sums (the former PRI governor of Coahuila, for example, is involved in a debt and fraud scandal involving thousands of millions of pesos). Nevertheless, the magnitude of the requisite sums suggests that these should be difficult to conceal from authorities, should these wish to investigate the matter.

This analysis suggests a dilemma for the parties accusing the PRI of vote buying: the graver the accusation, the more scandalous, but also the less feasible it would appear to be for the PRI to have pulled it off. The runner-up AMLO today said that 5 million votes were stolen (presumably by the PRI). As a matter of strategy, he might have been better off leveling the more modest accusation that the PRI bought just enough votes to overturn a PRD victory. Doing so, however, would have amounted to an admission that the result of a clean election – which the PRD claims to have won – was close. I emphasize that I have no information about whether the PRI, the PRD, or other parties did in fact buy votes, with what money, and on what scale.

As an aside, from a theoretical perspective, it is interesting to note that, based on the internet videos, some voters appear to have been offended when discovering that they were offered too low a bribe in exchange for their vote. This is consistent with the idea that voter compliance in vote buying transactions might stem, at least in part, from normative or expressive behavior. Also, it suggests that a marginal change in the size of the individual bribe could have a non-linear effect on the effectiveness of vote buying efforts: a zero bribe could obtain more votes than a low, offensive one, which in turn could obtain fewer votes than a higher, non-offensive bribe.

54 Responses to Could the PRI have bought its electoral result in the 2012 Mexican election? Probably Not.

  1. José July 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    This is a very interesting analysis. I wonder if the fact that the PRI is the opposition party, rather than the incumbent, would make a difference in your analysis. In the first chapter of your book you mention that electoral manipulation is greater when power is concentrated than when it is not, but you do not specify if the incumbent is the one who is manipulating the election in the second case.

    • Alberto July 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      Thank you for your question. The short answer is that the analysis in the note does not rely on the PRI being in or out of office. What might make a difference (for example, in terms of the availability of extra-official funds or logistical capacity to manipulate) is that, at the sub-national level, the PRI is an incumbent party in many states. It is also interesting to note that the top two parties in this presidential election were opposition parties (at the national level).

      Let me now turn to your question about the argument in my book. One of the distinctions I draw there describes two scenarios, each broadly corresponding to a different distribution of capacities to manipulate across parties. The two scenarios can be called, loosely speaking, monopolistic and competitive. In the first scenario, one party, generally the incumbent, has a large advantage or a virtual monopoly on the capacity to manipulate elections. This was the situation in Mexico for decades and up until the 1980s, when the PRI was for all practical purposes the only game in town. In the second scenario, two or more parties have a substantial (although not necessarily identical) capacity to manipulate. This approximates the situation in post-2000 Mexico.

      Back to your question: I argue in the book that the pattern of electoral manipulation tends to be quite different in each of the two scenarios, but a priori the extent of manipulation is not necessarily greater in one versus the other. In the first scenario, electoral manipulation is often “excessive,” in the sense that the incumbent party manipulates substantially even when doing so is not needed to win (the reason, in a nutshell, is that by so doing, the manipulator appears strong to the public – an informational rationale). In the second scenario, manipulation is frequently “marginal,” in the sense that various parties (potentially including the incumbent party) simultaneously manipulate in an effort to one-up the other (in a manner analogous to an arms race), with the goal of winning the election. Marginal manipulation ranges widely in terms of its extent. In some instances, the competing parties are both quite constrained in terms of possibilities for manipulation, and the total extent of manipulation is relatively small (some US elections have historically fit this description). In other cases, the competing parties are not thus constrained, and leave no stone unturned, no ballot box unstuffed, and/or no voter unbought (for example, elections in the Philippines in the middle of the past century fit this description).

      Applying these ideas to the case of Mexico, I believe that at least two relevant changes have taken place as part of the process of democratization. First, the PRI is no longer the only party with the capacity to manipulate substantially. Second, the institutional framework that governs national elections has placed important constraints on the possibilities for manipulating, and in particular on the possibilities for massive election fraud. Such constraints affect all parties. Therefore, on the net, my best guess is that the total extent of electoral manipulation (e.g. measured in number of votes bought, stolen, changed, destroyed, etc.) in contemporary Mexico is smaller than during most of the pre-democratic period.

      Finally, it’s helpful to keep in mind that the extent of manipulation is quite a different thing from the effect of the manipulation on the outcome (i.e. on which party wins). There exist cases where manipulation efforts are large in scale but make no difference to the outcome (examples include the 2004 presidential election in Russia, when Putin would have won a clean election almost surely), as well as cases where manipulation efforts are small in scale but change who wins (some would argue that the 2000 US election, or the Mexican 2006 election, fall in this category, although others would disagree). When judging “how badly” an election might have been manipulated, it is important to specify whether one refers to the extent of manipulation, to the overall quality of the electoral process, or to the effect of manipulation on who wins.

      • José July 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm #


        Thank you very much for your reply. I look forward to reading your book.

  2. Debbie July 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I like your article Alberto. It’s clear and effective but it leaves me with some questions regarding the availability and size of the broker community and the embezzlement of funds. I was recently in Mexico and the rumour is that these two factors were highly important in determining the electoral results. Have you run your analysis with estimates of these variables perhaps? Thanks!

    • Alberto July 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      I have not done so, but in principle one could. Adding into the estimates the cost of payments to brokers charged with implementing the vote buying, as well as possible leakage of funds due to embezzlement by the brokers, should raise the cost of buying a given number of votes.

  3. Jaime D. Berebichez July 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    at last a comment that puts numbers on it and lets you understand better what is going around and what is only dreams.

  4. Jose A July 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    It is a good article with a good theoretical background. However, the way PRI operates go beside this framework. I will send you an email with the experience I had in this last election.

    • Alberto July 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Please do, I would be interested in hearing your experiences

  5. Andrés Paniagua July 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    I would like to point out that there is an assumption that either has to be revised, or needs more elaboration to be understandable. That only 16% of the bribed modify their voting intention is not equivalent to only 16% of the bribed voting for the buying party. One would have to assume that voting intention among the bribed, is similarly distributed as in the total of the electorate. That would put the coefficient at about 47%= 38% who would vote for the buying party anyway + (62*.16)% sixteen percent of the rest. Which lowers the costs considerably.

    • Alberto Simpser July 11, 2012 at 12:08 am #

      Andres, you bring up a good point. I would respond to it in two ways.

      First and most importantly, the conclusions of my note do not rely on the 16% figure. Even assuming a 100% efficacy of the PRI at vote buying (an unlikely proposition), the cost of buying 3.2 million votes, or 5 million votes, would likely have been quite large. I emphasize here, as in my posting, that this is not to say that it did not actually happen — as I mentioned in the post, it is not inconceivable that the PRI had access to sufficient extra-official funds.

      Second, concerning the 16% figure, it refers to the full set of voters, not just to sympathizers of rival parties. I believe this is consistent with the study from which the figure is taken — the 16% refers to all voters in that study’s sample, not only to the subset of their sample who did not intend to vote for the party doing the bribing. In other words, the 16% figure means that, of every 100 people bribed by the party (call it party A), 16 actually voted for that party but wouldn’t have done so otherwise. This would yield an advantage of at least 16 additional votes for the party A, with respect to its opponent (call it party B). Assuming that the bribed voter originally planned to stay at home, but ended up voting for A, the bribe would increase the difference in the vote total between parties A and B by exactly 1 vote in favor of A. Hence, out of 100 bribes, party A would get 16 additional votes.

      Alternatively, it is possible that the bribed voter originally planned to vote for B; if so, then if the voter ends up voting for A as a result of the bribe, this would increase the vote distance between A and B by 2 votes, not 1. Some, however, argue that parties do not tend to bribe partisans of their rivals because it is difficult to persuade them to vote against their party preference; see for instance Mariela Szwarcberg (2012) on this point.

      • Andrés Paniagua July 11, 2012 at 3:09 am #

        Alberto, thank you very much for your reply. I now understand how that figure goes into the calculation. Not coming from inside your field, I wouldn’t question your premises; they sound plausible enough to a layman. And your conclusions I find soundly arrived at, and definitely worth considering by both the adherents and the deniers of the accusations of electoral fraud.
        Again, thanks for taking your time


  6. El Pollo July 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Hmmm. So the question really is not whether the PRI bought millions of “tortas” but rather if this actually mattered in terms of the outcome of the election. I like the thought provoking aspect of the model, although it is way too sensitive to the parameters (e.g., unit cost of the “torta”, effectiveness) to settle the issue.

    Unfortunately, I fear, that people may have been letting go of their vote for considerably less than $700 pesos. Let’s face it, it is not like most folks are maniacally optimizing the value of their ballot capital but rather regard it as one more way to get by through another day. I also have a feeling that brokers are better aligned with the demand side.

    Six years from now, let’s be our own agents and sell ours on eBay. Bidding starts @ $700 (2012) pesos.

    • Omar July 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      Is anyone taking into account that crime & drug smuggling money could be also in PRI’s electoral budget?

      • Saul July 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

        That’s a good point! I also thought that it would be smarter for politicians to get the unaccounted money out of drug leaders! why not?? Marginal manipulation will be the best political strategy while Mexico’s education system is expensive, dysfunctional and very corrupt. Let’s focus here, it’s easier to lead an electoral campaign among ignorant voters!


  7. Luis July 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Dear Alberto, This seems to me to be rationalization of a crime. How many votes does it take for it to be such a shame? Also comparing Argentina to Mexico is not appropriate, I am sure you understand literacy levels and third education in Argentina are close to 2.5 times that of Mexico. What are your basis to determine the effectiveness of the “carried-voters”. The only way to know the effect of this is actually to ask those who perpetrated it. A major shame. So finally I ask you, if there was not enough impact to cause a change, is it okay?

    • Alberto Simpser July 11, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Dear Luis, thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I believe I have been misunderstood by you: I in no way am attempting to rationalize or justify vote buying by the PRI (or by any other party, for that matter). My view is that vote buying — whether it changed or did not change who won — is unacceptable. I believe that if you re-read my posting with this in mind you will see that I am not trying to justify a crime.

      With respect to your point about Argentina, may I refer you to my response to a previous comment by Andrés Paniagua.

  8. FAN July 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Well, I am Mexican, right now I am not sure if I should flaunt this fact, what with EPN´s yesterday´s interview on CNN.
    My personal experience? I spent my entire Sunday (July 1st) in a voting stand. It was 8 pm and President Calderon was already declaring EPN the winner, when less than 6% of the votes counted and a lot of stands, like my own, where beginning to count votes. It was until 12 pm and other stands even later, that we signed the Act with the accounted number of votes.
    You may not believe this, since you seem to be a person who is led more by numbers and facts than social observation. You know what they say about Mexico, how they picture us in movies, cartoons, books and such: a third wordly country whose inhabitants are always wrapped in a pocho, wearing a hat while drinking tequila over a donkey. In the desert. With houses made of straw.
    For those that have come to the Capital (DF) you know that´s not true everywhere; however that´s the reality for some Mexicans. We are divided: the country side is really abandoned, its natives are left aside and unprotected, they are even thwarted. There are people who survive with 200 pesos a month (about 14 dollars a month). These people are really un-educated (academically speaking), is like another world entirely, awfully far away from the big cities. Their rules our different, their ideollogy is different, their reality is different. They don´t know the power they hold as voters, they just want to survive in a world that refuses to include them; which for them is harder every day.
    So, they are given the right to vote, but they are humillated by the circumstances they have been thrown into. The goverment does not protect their right by making sure that their circumstances don´t take them to the desperate need to sell the only power they can brandish against corruption, the only way they can ensure they participate of democracy.
    Foreigners don´t know this, heck, not even some mexicans are aware of the precarious situation of these people. You should know that Mexico has a great margin of poverty, compounded mainly by these people. So, what do they do? They sell whatever they can to feed themselves, even if it is for meager 100 pesos, which was known to have happened this past election. Believe it or not, even if you think us to be even more ignorant by doing so. It happened, there is proof, not just videos, and documents, but statements, recordings and digital evidence. And it´s all because of a major problem, one that flawed governmets have caused. An economy and structure that´s far away from yours.
    There is proof that the PRI spent more than the numbers you mentioned here in the SORIANAGATE solely, let alone the other and various forms of fraud they have used.
    What does the IFE do, what does the FEPADE do? they turn a blind eye to this. To me is courious that you relly so much in the legality of the process because the IFE was involved; the IFE is their ally, as well as many other institutios that are so called to protect us and our rights.
    You are not taking into account the amount of money that a lot of enterprises gave the PRI to support their campaign expenses, for the promises of low taxes; you don´t take into account the people that was coaxed by the drug cartels to vote for their candidate; you don´t see that we cannot do nothing more than to express our outrage via the Internet, because we have nothing more to protect ourselves with.
    Our legal system does not perform the job, they look after the highest bidder, not the people. Our police departments, our military, all this institutions meant to guard us are against us, they even have exterior help. So, if you would tell me how is it possible that the PRI didn´t buy votes in a country like this, I would really apreciate it. Because right now we are all dissapointed with everything that happened since this past elections.

    • quique lomeli July 15, 2012 at 1:50 am #

      el señor López perdió, y para seguir con su costumbre llora,patalea y acusa sin probar sus dichos.

      que México es un país lejos de la democracia ideal, si; que el señor Peña ganó, también; que la izquierda está lista para llegar al poder… la izquierda no existe es éste país, y don Andrés es ideológicamente hijo de Carlos Salinas, get over it

      • CHILITOPIQUIN July 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

        my god, what kind of “prole” are you? i think you are not a mexican. chamaco miado.

  9. Ricarri July 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    I think there are many other factors that leads to PRI winning presidency, buy I wonder, if PRI “bought” so many ballots, why didn’t they buy the “whole car”? I mean, last three presidents (Zedillo, Fox and Calderon) have had many problems with senators and representants. If they took so many work in order to win presidency, they better work for winning but cameras.

    I, frankly, think there was a clean election. PRI may have use a lot of resources to promote their candidate, but, in the end, people elected him by their votes.

    • luis July 24, 2012 at 5:30 am #

      five millions votes, assuming five hundred pesos by vote, are 2500 millions pesos. On year 2000 elections, the pemex sindicate give the pri 1000 millions pesos.

      The pri has about 15 states. divided among them, each governor coul give 167 millions pesos. It’s really a small price to obtain political power, and is low compared by the total bailout of the states.

      As one politician from pri said ” it is expensive to win an election, but it’s more expensive to lose it”.

  10. ignacio cruz July 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    i can’t help but get the classic feeling of the “outside looking in” when reading your article. i didn’t read your book, so i may be over simplifying.

    trying to make a mathematical argument on corruption is quite interesting, especially if you don’t know how things work in mexico. but for anyone on the inside, such as myself, these types of arguments miss reality completely. i’m not saying the PRI or anyone else bought any votes, but if they did, the cost you suggest is way to high. with that said, i’m sure you know they would have access to that kind of money even if that were the price. buying votes in mexico is an art form, a skill highly coveted by political leaders on all sides but kept secrete for obvious reasons.

    Ignacio Cruz, PhD/ABD

  11. Gonzalo Fernandez July 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I love a little book, a jewel, called “Innumeracy” in reference to illiteracy, on how people most often never repair on doing simple math on issues that look too big and overwhelming, but with a little “numeracy” you can break the big problem into smaller, more logical, measurable chunks and this way debunk urban legends or myths. Well, being close to this electoral phenomenon in Mexico I can tell you, this is not the case.

    The electoral fraud PRI-style is a multi-headed monster. Actually it is quite effective because of its “multiheadedness” plus, each of those heads also mutates. Let’s try to dissect one of the heads: Vote buying. First, this is by no means the majority of the illegal or unethical votes the PRI gets. The majority of the illegal/unethical votes the PRI gets are from corporate vote (which, I agree, is a form of vote buying by other means, but, if we go that direction, most votes could become, philosophically, bought votes, uh?) .

    Knowing that, let me tell you that there is a huge proportion of the bought votes that never get paid. For instance: a group of many Evangelical Church communities are demanding the PRI. They orchestrated what is called the “Operacion Daniel” where the church would fill the paperwork, commit to give the PRI an amount of votes, like corporate votes, in exchange for construction materials and laptop computers for their churches. The materials and computers where supposed to come after the election… You guessed, they haven’t shipped anything to date. This operation gave the PRI around 28,000 “bought” votes, with cost zero. One more, an old-time favorite: The “My (insert relationship here, like father, cousin, friend, etc) will get a (insert a government job or office here) job after the PRI wins the election”… this is vote buying out of thin air, out of profiting from ignorance and poverty, virtually _everyone_ here in Mexico knows of a close relative whose career will be benefited after the PRI wins. Needles to say, it’s a provoked rumor, a scam.

    One more, paying with pre-paid cards, store or phone pre-paid cards… In the words of one of PRI operators caught in a YouTube video “remember people, this cards will be activated after the election, after the PRI wins” but, when this people try to use them they find that sometimes they don’t work at all or they have far less credit than they were told.

    I could go on and on and on only on this particular head of the PRI electoral fraud machinery, but I think I made my point. Too many variables, too many numbers, too many emotions, too many people involved, trying to simplify it will take you to a mistaken hypothesis. Believe me I love when simple math that most people overlook debunks myths, but it don’t work on this amazingly complex multi-headed fraud machinery.

    Now, the “vote buying to win the election would be too expensive” hypothesis is also wrong in my opinion. PRI mexican state governors are many, and have plenty of ways to use public money for campaigns. Also they are pretty much untouchable, -unless they get uncomfortable to someone more powerful-, so, don’t worry about how expensive the win-elections-at-any-price machinery can get, they can pay.

    Do not underestimate the power of the organization that withheld the economic, political and military power for 72 years. They are far from dead or wounded, they are invigorated and wanting it all.

    • Alberto Simpser July 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      Dear Gonzalo,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Allow me to respond to some of your points.

      First, I would like to emphasize that my note does not argue that “vote buying to win the election would be too expensive,” as you suggest. I do not know what the true outcome of a clean election would have been, and therefore I cannot say how expensive it would have been to buy votes to win the election. The point I make is that obtaining the margin of votes that the PRI obtained (3.2 million), or buying as many votes as the PRD is claiming the PRI bought (5 million) would have been very expensive.

      Second, you make the excellent point that the PRI has many different resources and tactics at its disposal with which to obtain electoral advantage. I agree with you (although I also believe that the PRI, while still incredibly resourceful, must now operate under more severe competition and constraints than before the 1990s). My note is not an “indulgencia” where I absolve the PRI of all its sins. I am merely focusing on the recent allegations of vote buying, which matter greatly because they constitute the basis of the PRD’s effort to contest the validity of our recent election, and because vote buying has become one of the most prominent tactics of electoral manipulation in national elections in Mexico since 2000.

  12. Noé July 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    I think that he´s making time to create false evidence because AMLO doesn`t know lose like 6 years ago with Calderón. He´s creating a bad atmospher at the authority like the IFE and his followers are crazy here in México.

  13. Reynaldo July 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Great post, Alberto. Very insightful and thought-provoking. I would like to quote a single sentence on an issue I have also been ruminating on for the past week or so:

    Alberto said: “Effectiveness also depends on the counterfactual scenario: whether and how the bribe recipient would have voted in the absence of a bribe.”

    It is, in fact, impossible to prove whether vote-buying inducements have a causal impact on an individual’s voting decision—in favor of the PRI in this case—or whether other factors were determinant in influencing their vote over and above the bribe they may have received. In a counterfactual world, an individual receiving a bribe from the PRI may have voted for the PRI anyways has she/he not received it, voted for another party, or abstained from voting. The point is that these scenarios are unobservable and the possibility of other factors influencing the voting decision cannot be entirely ruled out.

    It is entirely plausible that the PRI engaged in a strategy of “turnout buying” (See Nichter 2008 APSR article) by targeting latent supporters and rewarding them for being mobilized to the polls. If this is true, the whole vote-buying argument comes crumbling down.

    From a legal standpoint, if the PRD invokes a violation of constitutional principles in the electoral process (as I believe they will), proof must be given that vote-buying inducements affected the freedom and secrecy of the ballot. As mentioned above, this is logically impossible. This point, however, opens up a can of worms: the legislation governing post-electoral judicial processes in Mexico, a country where attempts at vote-buying are argued to be pervasive, is fundamentally flawed.

  14. tulum July 11, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    what they bought were the IFE cars not the votes, so they can vote with the IFE cards

  15. tulum July 11, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    they bought the IFE CARDS (correction)

  16. Luis July 11, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    Non-linear outcome, the model is not correct, people sold their votes for way less than 700 pesos. “non-offensive bribe” ?? Are you kidding?!! Mexico is not Germany and for poor and ignorat people there is not such a thing like a “non-offensive bribe”

  17. David July 11, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    Of course they didnt pay for it!!!!!!! Who want to give money to “la prole”?????? they just printed out:

  18. Manuel July 11, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    It is an interesting analysis; in fact, I had already done some similar calculations and achieve the figure of 1.000 million USD (almost 40 times the amount authorized by IFE), based on comments posted. One factor not considered in this analysis is the influence of mass media. Should have been analyzed as Millennium television (difficult if you are in another country) to note that there was a very heavy favoritism toward the PRI candidate, very often the forms and dismissive tone when referring to the other candidates. In addition to this, add another large television network and to many print media (newspapers) as well as the survey results published by prestigious polling firms in association with a television network to strengthen the idea that there was a winner (but then it turned out that the polling companies had an error of more than 6 points, hardly missed by a serious company), it is clear but difficult to quantify that there was a very costly manipulation of media companies , houses polling, and the mentioned vote-buying that led the PRI to victory. While there was no probably a purchase of three million votes, it was probably a very big investment in manipulation of media companies. For now, it is better to wait for the results of the court to hear their views in this regard.

  19. Martin Mendoza July 11, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Too many “if” and “but”, we have to assume a lot and you know what they say about it:
    “Never assume because when you do it…..” Accusations by AMLO do not even make a lot of sense…but who cares? The group that do not believe anything coming from him (like me) or the group that believes whatever comes from his mouth?
    This is not about interesting factual analysis, this is about perceptions and the handling of emotions.

  20. Rosendo July 11, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    I don’t know whether the PRI purchased votes or not, but they clearly can see your numbers and raise them if need be. If a PRI governor alone managed to raise his state debt from 323 million pesos to 32,000 million pesos (24m to 2.4bn USD) in a fraudulent manner and go on about his business undisturbed, just imagine what 17 additional governors and tens of thousands of priistas can do together. I think that the operative words in your writing are “should these (authorities) wish to investigate the matter”. They don’t. The IFE has had its share of corruption scandals in recent history that remained unsolved and as an institution is a far cry from what it used to be. It is my impression that it has been systematically debased to the point where it now commands but a little respect. Now the pertinent questions are: will officials actually look for unaccounted amounts? How far are they willing to go? what constitutes fraud and what is the penalty? How many purchased votes would get the election annulled, if any? What if the pre-paid cards’ amounts send the campaign expenditures over the legal limit, once accounted for, regardless of how many votes they purchased? What of indirect “purchases” or manipulation e.g. Campaign polls excessive discrepancies, news organizations blatant biases, etc.

    • El Pollo July 11, 2012 at 3:24 am #


      • Rosendo July 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

        Abogado which is different. Che Pollo no se te quita. Jajaja.

  21. Yvonne July 11, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    Very interesting with the assumptions and your parameters “…. the number of votes that the PRI would have needed to buy in order to obtain the result it did, the effectiveness of vote buying (i.e. the rate at which vote buying attempts translate into actual votes), and the cost per vote….” It has come to light where, actual mexican people have spoken and runs in several articles over the media with actual emails interchanged between the parties involved as well as on youtube videos, different points that could be entered into your assumptions. A price for the buying of votes was set from $500, $1000 , $1500 and up to $4000 mexican pesos with a promise to be paid after the voting . Also promises were given to proportionate material for construction, but after the voting happened and votes were given in favor of the PRI party in many, many cases the money and the material for construction were NOt delivered and in many other cases where $1500 or $4000 pesos were promised it was only delivered $100 pesos. Also soriana cards where given to buy food and when people went to charge it they found out that the card was canceled. I haven’t read your book or how you came up with your article but it will be nice if you run it by some type of econometrics formula where you can input more parameters and more assumptions. In my opinion the way you described the actual situation of the vote buying don’t have the enough assumptions and enough parameters to obtain a reliable outcome.

  22. Salvador MonOrd July 11, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    You assumptions are deeply flawed, Sir. You don’t actually need to buy individual votes in order to get them. You just need to identify a population segment that has historically voted overwhelmingly for your party and get them out to vote in a larger than average proprotion. This will increase overall voting, but you will automatically get more votes than your opponent. The segmentation can run along geographical, educational, age or occupational lines. For example, if college students tend to vote more for the PRD and/or PAN, then you should disincentivate voting among them by spreading the word that abstaining from voting or annuling your vote is a valid and effective alternative (as actually happened); if workers affiliated with large unions are more likely to vote for the PRI, then you could promote voting among them by many means (not necessarily by buying the votes directly). None of these tactics are illegal per se. Having observed closely and over many years how the PRD and the PRI go about promoting voting, I can tell you that the PRI is simply much better at getting the voters out on election day. In any case, assuming that the PRI bought he 3.2 mio vote difference is plain wrong: the PRI got 19 mio votes.

  23. elizabeth July 11, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    yo los invito a ver este video
    son millones de votos comprados del PRI mas los votos que le quitaron al PRD mas toda la corrupción que hay en el partido.

  24. Daniel July 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    I agree with some of the readers in that your assumptions are so hypothetical and unsound that your article is little more that a piece of ad hoc speculation. First, you assume that the PRI would have bought 3.2 million votes, and those votes would have been bought up front. But for all we know, the PRI could have bought anywhere between a few hounded thousand to five million votes, and in either case your analysis no longer make sense. On the other hand, vote buying is a much a much more complex process that what you assume. It’s been documented, for instance, that the expenditure of the Estado de México in electronic gift cards has been taking place at least since 6 years ago, and the situation changes entirely in other PRI-governed States such as Veracruz. And extrapolating missing information with some generalities about Argentine voter’s behavior is ludicrous: you are not comparing people, here, but complex and entirely different political systems. Is as comparing, say, Psychoanalysis with Ptolemaic astronomy just because both start with ‘P’.

  25. Lorena July 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Elizabeth, perhaps you mean “la corrupción que hay en TODOS los partidos?”, One need not defend or even like the PRI to know, understand and recognize that every political actor in this last election, including the “untouchable” AMLO, did quite a few dirty things to get votes. AMLO has been buying votes since he lost the last election six years ago! So please, lets not get all self-righteous and claim PRI is “bad” and PRD is “good”, reality is much more nuanced. AMLO is just angry that his dirty little tricks didn’t pull it off.

  26. Dr. Ricardo Garres Valdez July 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Obviously Alberto Simpson does not know the Mexican reality. He can not use an Argentinian percentage in a whole different country, with a party that has been in power for over 70 years in the presidency and the last 12 in the majority of the Mexican States: the machinery in place, untouched.

    16.5 % efficiency in Argentina might be right: in Mexico it should be close to 99.9 %
    Mr.Simpson has no base for his calculations: it is ridiculous to use other country’s results.

    • Alberto July 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Dear Dr. Garres Valdez, allow me to respond to your comment in two ways. First, the argument I make in my post does not depend on the use of the figure from the Argentinian study: even assuming 100% efficacy, the cost of buying 3.2 or 5 million votes is remarkably high.

      Second, I welcome your criticism about the content of my post, and we may disagree about our conclusions, but I would like to mention that I am Mexican and, I would like to think, pretty aware of the Mexican reality.

      • Dr. Goku July 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

        Maybe you are Mexican, but it is not the same talk about Mexico when you do not live here, see the true and smells the corrupcion in the air.

  27. Playami July 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    you leave out the existence of 2200 million in SORIANA’s contracts payed with government money, now called “sorianagate”.
    also they where bought by looking for community leader they just pay him with construction material or up to 7500 pesos but he would have to convince a lot of people into voting for pri by way of brainwash.
    also they payed improvements on churches so that the PADRES or bishops would “suggest” voting for the PRI.
    A lot of votes bought came from states governed by the PRI so they used their social programs with political intent.
    And Most important they came via fraud trough computer generated algorithm, when you count the votes on the “blankets” left at the voting ballots the result is the exact opposite i invite you to visit yosoyantifraude dot org. where you can see for yourself that at least 3 million votes missing for obrador by way of magic, and also deduct the ones that where bought and you got yourself a completely different result.

    ps. check out also the 56 million dollar lawsuit epn and pri have with an american media group for not coming trough with the contract but in fact using the contract to take out 56 million from the state of mexico for “publicity” that was never paid for, but it was used to buy votes. and like this i can name a lot of examples.

  28. PatAre July 13, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Could 4,500 million pesos have been enough?
    This is amount PRI expended in electoral manipulation and other fraudulent electoral practices during the campaign and the polls, besides what the party expended in extended manipulation of the electoral preferences during the former months and even years to create the media image of EPN.
    The evidence of this overexpense sustains the petition turned today to the High Court of the Federal Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF) to invalidate the results of the July 1 presidential ballot given that the priciples of legality and impartiality have been violated.
    How were they expended and why, are two questions that I think these two articles explain well.
    And you are right, it is too much.

  29. pablo July 13, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    The PRD representative Camerino Márquez declared to the IFE that:

    ” A los 1,556 millones 875,788 pesos se deben sumar, además, 4,599 millones 947,834 pesos, que incluyen la movilización de simpatizantes a un encuentro de futbol en el Estadio Azteca, el reparto de tarjetas Soriana y tarjetas telefónicas prepagadas.”

    If the total expenditure is almost 5000 million pesos, then this is almost double of the 2500 million figure you come up. The election COULD have been bought

  30. Daniel Rabbau July 14, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Dear Mr. Simpser,
    You’ve been repeating here in your answers that you’re not asserting that the PRI bought the elections. Rather, you’re asserting the following proposition: “obtaining the margin of votes that the PRI obtained (3.2 million), or buying as many votes as the PRD is claiming the PRI bought (5 million) would have been very expensive”. From this proposition it doesn’t follow, as you rightly claim, that the PRI didn’t actually obtain, through unofficial channels, the amount of money. Now, you should be able to see that there is another proposition that does not follow from the above assertion: “Could the PRI have bought its electoral result in the 2012 Mexican election? Probably Not.” Which you will recognize as the title of your posting. The modal affirmation “probably not” does not stem out of any part of your analysis. To advance this hypothetical affirmation you would need to prove that, in the context of the Mexican election, it is less likely that the PRI got hold of the sufficient amount of money to buy the alleged quantity of votes, in comparison to the hypothesis that the PRI didn’t get hold of that money. But your analysis clearly does not state any justification for this claim. So I think you should change the title of this text.

  31. Jose Angel Flores July 17, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    PRI won because Peña Nieto was a better candidate. You can speculate and try to find out how many voters there were able to bribe, but you can do the same about the PRD, and PT and PAN, and PVEM, and so on. The PRD is well-known for their bribing techniques in Mexico City.

    Buying votes is common not only in Mexico, but in many other countries. But if buyings votes were such a decisive factor for winning an election, why didn´t the PRI buy their votes in 2000? or in 2006? access to funds, they always had.

    But we are having this discussion only and only because one candidate cannot accept defeat. But he lost.

    • Antonio Carrillo Sánchez September 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      why didn´t the PRI buy their votes in 2000? Es una pregunta ingenua.
      PRI no compró votos en 2000 porque:
      1. NO tenía un candidato fuerte, incluso ni el mismo partido lo apoyó.
      2. Era IMPOSIBLE que el PRI ganara: no había condiciones ni políticas ni sociales. El PRI no es tonto! Es un partido hábil e inteligente y sabe cuándo, dónde y en qué momento usar las malas prácticas!
      3. En 2006 mucho menos había condiciones y TAMPOCO tenían un candidato fuerte y su imagen como institución política seguía groseramente sucia. Le tomó 12 años “arreglarla”. En 2012 se recompuso porque tuvo la ocasión de convertirse en un partido conciliador de “centro”, que se supo beneficiar del conflicto pos electoral de 2006, ante la caida de la izquierda que se reflejó en las elecciones de 2009 y el sangriento sexenio de Calderón.
      PRI usó eso para recomponer su imagen y NO quiere decir que al mejorarla sea ahora un mejor partido. Basta ver la conformación del equipo de transición y sus nuevos senadores y diputados. Son los mismos!
      4. Efectivamente Peña Nieto es el fue el mejor candidato, pero eso NO quiere decir el más competente ni adecuado. Fué el mejor porque representaba fielmente toda la mercadotecnia política en base a la cual el PRI armó su estrategia: “Un político joven que representa a un NUEVO partido”.
      5. El PRI es un MAESTRO en malas prácticas. Yo trabajo en política y sé que el PRI entrena a sus cuadros para realizar ésas malas prácticas. Literalmente es un curso donde se les explica cómo manipular leyes, embarazar urnas, robar casillas, coaccionar votos, etc. Yo no he tenido la fortuna de tomar ése curso.
      NO digo que AMLO sea la solución o que sea incuestionable o que no esté mal. Él tampoco es un santo!
      Pero no podemos decir: Ganó EPN… perfecto.. todo funciona, así es y así sera!!
      Debemos ser inteligentes y críticos constructivamente para sacar a nuestro país adelante!

  32. luis July 24, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    sorry, its budget xd

  33. Nicolás Weinstock August 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm #


    It is irrelevant to even waste time with mathematics. It might be possible that the PRI could have won the election legally. But the fact is that they bought 1, 10, 100, 1000 or who knows how many votes. That is ilegal and immoral in any advanced democracy. Thus the election is a fraud not against AMLO or his party but against the Mexican people.

  34. Antonio Carrillo Sánchez September 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    ¿El PRI compró la elección? Probably yes!
    Claro, desde esta perspectiva es poco probable que el PRI haya comprado tantos votos. Además muchas las pruebas aportadas por AMLO carecen de sustento.
    La cuestión es que la compra de votos se ejerce junto con la coacción: ¿ha considerado el hecho de que poblaciones rurales y de la sierra votaron mayoritariamente por el PRI, y que en ésas poblaciones rurales extremadamente pobres, votaron más del 90% de las personas? ¿Y que el único partido con la estrcutura necesaria para hacerlo es el PRI? A esas personas NO se les dan 700 pesos. Ni si quiera dinero… en muchos casos se les da LECHE, TORTILLAS y un par de AMENAZAS o promesas. Este hecho se vuelve fundamental porque en México 30 millones de personas no tienen qué comer (literalmente) y prácticamente todas viven en la sierra y en comunidades rurales.
    Hay un estudio que muestra que la gente mexicana que vive en el campo y la sierra, y que recibe dinero o una misericordia por su voto, se siente comprometida en un 80% para votar por ésa persona o partido. Es una cuestión CULTURAL.
    ¿El PRI compró la elección? Probably yes! Comprar remite a DINERO. Claro, una compra literal de 5 millones de votos es IMPOSIBLE. Pero éso no es lo que se discute. Lo que se discute es la compra de espacios en televisión, el tráfico con la pobreza, la corrupción de funcionarios, etc.

  35. Dr. Ricardo Garres Valdez November 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Obviously you ignore the wisdom of Mr. Luis Farías, ex-governor of Nuevo León, that commented something like this:

    “The PRD has the intellectuals, the PAN the entrepreneurs, but we, the PRI have nationwide organization and the machinery”…

    One thing is to put make a machinery from scratch and pay for it, and another to have it in place… you do not need so much billions to produce a result.

  36. Thetearfulheart December 3, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    That’s a knowing answer to a difuifclt question