Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Indelible Ink Will Build Confidence in Wary Electorate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Indelible Ink Will Build Confidence in Wary Electorate

Article excerpt

MEXICAN voters will have to get dirty for the August 21 results to be certified as clean.

To combat the fraudulent practice of voting more than once, a voter's right thumb will be stained by a revolutionary ocher-colored indelible ink.

This isn't the same "indelible" smear easily removed in years past with a bit of lemon juice, or a good soap-scrubbing. Mexican scientists and electoral officials claim they have a fraud-beater product that could set a new world standard.

"I don't know if the United States Food and Drug Administration would approve it. But it really is impressive," says Dong Nguyen, head of a United Nations technical team here providing advice to the Mexican government.

For years, fraud claims have dogged the Institutional Revolutionary Party's 65-year unbroken grip on power. Domestic and international pressure has pushed the Mexican government into a series of reforms, including spending $730 million on mechanisms designed to make this the most credible election in history. Much of the expense has gone into setting up a new computerized electoral roll. Ninety percent of eligible voters (45.7 million Mexicans) now have photo-identification cards, which include a signature and thumbprint.

But the $200,000 spent on developing and producing a truly indelible ink may be the best confidence-building investment the government has made. "It could be the most cost-efficient way to avoid the double vote," Mr. Nguyen says. Researchers say the ink is safe on skin and that the odor disappears with washing. This reporter unsuccessfully attempted to remove the stain with gasoline, soap, and bleach. After four days, it began to fade.

Coming up with an indelible ink was a challenge for the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the government agency running the elections. In November, it solicited samples of indelible ink from companies here. Five companies sent in 54 samples. The IFE then contracted the National School of Biological Sciences at the National Polytechnical Institute here to run tests on the inks.

Scientists found that all of the 54 inks indelible on paper, cloth, or metal could be removed from skin using household solvents. …

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