THE LADY AND THE BALLOT
ELECTION CAMPAIGNS always reveal much of the general character, composition, and sources of power in any society. The Mexican presidential campaign of 1958 highlighted characteristics of great significance in Mexican society, particularly the growing political importance of women. But, after all, the proof of the ballot is in the counting. This is particularly true in Mexico where the Constitution specified the obligation to vote among the duties of citizenship and where the federal electoral law requires no literacy qualifications but provides penalties for qualified voters who fail to register and to vote. These penalties include fines of not less than 10 pesos nor more than 300 pesos and imprisonment of not less than three days nor more than six months.1 Although generally not enforced, these punishments provide an incentive for all qualified voters, possibly with the help of party leaders and election officials, to be sure that somebody registers and actually casts a ballot in their name. These arrangements have redounded particularly to the advantage of the PRI because as the largest party it has been able to exert the greatest pressure and offer the most rewards to push registration as high as possible. It has always furnished poll watchers for all polling places and has been able to count upon PRI party affiliation of at least some of the election officials. In fact some of the reports covering the 1958 election mentioned that the PRI, in its campaign to encourage the largest possible registration, provided for discounts in government stores and elsewhere to customers showing their registration certificates.2
Because of the great increase in population and the pressure exerted by political parties and by other means, registration for voting reached the highest point in the history of the country.