Alejandro Trelles

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Components of Partisan Bias Originating from Single-Member Districts in Multi-Party Systems: The Case of Mexico. Political Geography. 2017

Eric Magar, Alejandro Trelles, Micah Altman y Michael McDonald

Abstract: We measure the components of partisan bias—i.e., undue advantage conferred to some party in the conversion of votes into legislative seats in recent Mexican multi-party congressional elections. Methods to estimate the contributions to partisan bias from malapportionment, boundary delimitation, and turnout are limited to two-party competition. In order to assess the spatial dimension of multi-party elections, we propose an empirical procedure combining three existing approaches. Analysis reveals advantageous, albeit modest, partisan bias in favor of Mexico’s former hegemonic ruling party, and especially for the left, relative to the right. The method uncovers systematic and large turnout-based bias in favor of the PRI that has been offset by district geography substantively helping one or both other major parties.

How Party Nationalization Conditions Economic Voting. Electoral Studies. 2017

Scott Morgenstern, Noah Smith, Alejandro Trelles

Abstract: In this article we analyze the conditioning effect of party nationalization on economic voting. While previous single ­country and cross national studies suggest a weak correlation between economic conditions and voting patterns, we argue that this relationship is conditioned by the degree to which parties are nationalized. Using both aggregate and individual levels of analyses, as well as voting data at the district level, we show that low levels of nationalization equate with weak correlations of national economic conditions and, unsurprisingly, that even where nationalization is weak, particularly bad economic times tend to unify voters and generate a national retrospective response. However, we show that even when there is agreement nationally to throw out incumbents, voters do not necessarily coordinate on their prospective choice, at least in multiparty systems. By focusing on Spain and several Latin American countries, we provide evidence showing how regional differences affect vote choice and how the clarity of voters’ responses differ between presidential and legislative elections. Our analysis suggests the relevance of considering regional differences within countries and including party level variables (i.e. party nationalization) in future studies of economic voting.

Open Data, Transparency and Redistricting in Mexico.  Política y Gobierno,  2016

Alejandro Trelles, Micah Altman, Eric Magar and Michael P. McDonald

Abstract: The many complaints and protests by citizens generated by the deterioration of the political elite in recent decades are clear evidence, among other things, of the urgent need to strengthen the connections between citizens and their representatives. To this end, the delimitation of the electoral boundaries —also known as redistricting— is key to improve political representation. Given the many technicalities involved in this processes —geographic,, statistical, digital, among the most obvious— it is easy to succumb to the temptation of relegating it to specialists and lose sight of its importance for democracy. From our perspective, the use of new technologies, as well as the generation and use of open data, offer an opportunity to strengthen political representation. In this article we discuss Mexico’s redistricting experience, the challenges in terms of transparency, and how certain tools —such as open source software and online mapping tools— have a tre-mendous potential for increasing the levels of transparency, participation, and accountability surrounding boundary delimitation.

The Organizational Consequences of Politics: A Research Agenda for the Study of Bureaucratic Politics in Latin America. Latin American Politics and Society. 2016.

John Polga-­Hecimovich and Alejandro Trelles

Abstract: The study of the bureaucracy in Latin America, within the study of politics, has long been little more than an afterthought. Instead, is assumed to be in the realm of public administration and separate from other regional subfields that have increasingly gained the attention of political scientists. As a result, scholars’ understanding of Latin American bureaucratic politics is limited. Here, we conduct a comprehensive survey of peer­-reviewed articles to evaluate the state of the field of Latin American bureaucratic politics. We find a thematically, analytically, and methodologically splintered discipline, but one primed for exploitation and new avenues of research. We summarize salient trends in the literature, describe advances in the study of bureaucracy in Latin America, and discuss limitations with this scholarship. We then suggest a roadmap for scholars by proposing a series of research questions and recommend a series of analytical and methodological approaches to address those questions.

Electoral boundaries. Lessons for California from Mexico’s Redistricting Experience. Política y Gobierno, 2012.

Alejandro Trelles y Diego Martínez Cantú

Abstract: After almost two hundred years that the gerrymandering term was coined in Massachusetts, the boundary delimitation process remains a complex and politicized process that affects the formation of the Legislative Branch and in the quality of political representation around the globe. In this study we describe the process of redistricting in California and hypothesize what would happen if the process was in the hands of an independent boundary delimitation commission. We use the Mexican case to develop a hypothetical scenario in which we minimize the partisan bias. Through a combinatorial optimization algorithm –developed by the IFE in 2005– that does not consider previous voting patterns or demographic information, we redistricted the 53 federal districts in California and found systematic evidence of partisan bias that favors the majority party responsible for approving the electoral map.

Bullets and Votes: Violence and Electoral Participation in Mexico. Journal of Politics in Latin America. 2012.

Alejandro Trelles and Miguel Carreras

Abstract: In this paper we analyze the effect of criminal violence on electoral participation in Mexico. Many scholars have studied the origins of criminal violence, as well as the success or failure of contemporary regimes in dealing with it. However, few have studied how it affects voter turnout. Following recent findings in the behavioral subfield, we hypothesize that as criminal violence increases, citizens abandon public channels of participation and take refuge in their private spheres. Using longitudinal and geostatistical tools to analyze Mexican municipalities in the last decade, we find that the level of electoral turnout is lower in the most violent regions of the country. In the final section, we use survey data to confirm that citizens exposed to high levels of criminal violence are less likely to vote.


AMLO, Political and Personal History of the Head of Government of Mexico City. Mexico DF: Plaza y Janés (Random House-Mondadori). 2004.

Alejandro Trelles and Héctor Zagal

Abstract: This book is about one of the key political actors in contemporary Mexican politics: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). This study describes the political environment surrounding the then Head of Government of Mexico City through his personality, his speech, and his decisions. The study seeks to understand how a politician like AMLO reached the peak of popularity and power in a new democracy immersed in a country with significant social inequalities. Politicians strengthen their popularity based on the ability they have to get their messages to the electorate. This study analyzes AMLO´s career in order to explain his position within Mexican politics. The study concludes that the risk of a lopizta government would be its gradual transformation into a PRI presidential style, without any of the advantages of the former hegemonic system.

Anatomy of the PRI. Mexico DF: Plaza y Janés (Random House-Mondadori). 2006.

Alejandro Trelles and Héctor Zagal

Abstract: This book is about the party that ruled Mexico for over seventy years, the elite that currently governs the party, and its standing after losing power in 2000. In the first part of this research we  studied the  anatomy, workings, and operation of  the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). We  explain that given its hegemony in most of the states and municipalities, the PRI was still the best positioned party to win back the presidency. In the second part we describe the recent history of the PRI party narrated through the political career of Roberto Madrazo. The candidate’s life is intertwined with other actors such as Carlos Madrazo, Jesus Reyes Heroles, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and Elba Esther Gordillo. In this second part we also explore the origins of Madrazo’s family, his talent and style, alliances and enmities. Finally, we analyze the endless disputes in which he has been involved and the many forms he has used to come out undefeated.

Book Chapters

2017. Electoral Geography, Minority Rights and Political Representation in Mexico: 1990-2017. En Luis Carlos Ugalde y Saíd Hernández Quintana, Fortalezas y debilidades del sistema electoral mexicano, 1990-2016. Perspectiva federal y local. Ciudad de México: Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación (TEPJF).

Book Reviews

2003 Review of The Mexican Voter; Democracy, Political Attitudes, and Electoral Behavior, by Alejandro Moreno, FCE, México, 2003. Mexico City: ISTMO, Number 269, Year 45, December.

2002 The Political, Economic, and Social Impact of Constitutional Law, by Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra, FCE, México, 2002. Política y Gobierno, CIDE, Vol. IX, Number 2.

Manuscripts Under Preparation

“Transparency and Partisan Strategic Interaction in Redistricting: The Case of Mexico. Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh (coauthored with Micah Altman, Michael McDonald and Eric Magar).

De jure and de facto autonomy of Electoral Management Bodies in Latin America and Africa.” University of Pittsburgh. Working paper.

“Electoral Geography in the Caribbean: The Effect of Boundary Delimitation on Electoral Competitiveness.” University of Pittsburgh. Book Project.

“Bureaucracy and Local Politics in Mexico and Brazil.” Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh (coauthored with Barry Ames and Bruno Hoepers).

“Presidential Home Style. Where, When and Why do Presidents Travel?” Lessons from Mexico. Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh (coauthored with Jesús Leal).

“The Presidential Agenda in Comparative Perspective. Lessons from Mexico, Brazil and the United States.” Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh (coauthored with Bruno Hoepers and John Polga-Hecimovich).

“Courts and Bureaucracy. The Role of External Institutions in Delimiting Agency Discretion in Latin America.” Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

“Court Redistricting and Bargaining Breakdown in Local Legislatures.” Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

“Local Politics, Federal Regimes and Party Nationalization in Latin America.” Working paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh

Editorials, Newspaper and Electronic Articles

2016 “Transparency, Accountability and Boundary Delimitation in the Caribbean. Lessons from St. Kitts and Nevis.” Panoramas: Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh. February.

2015 “The Economic Consequences of a Failed State (Las consecuencias económicas del desgobierno).” Foreign Affairs Latin America. February (coauthored with Luis Foncerrada).

2014 “Impressions from Venezuela: Institutional Deterioration, Violence and Social Unrest.” Panoramas: Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh. February.

2013 “Drawing Electoral Boundaries in Mexico: International Transparent Participative Mapping Around the Globe.” Panoramas: Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh. June.

2006 “War Equilibrium, A Substitute for Democracy?” Mexico DF: ISTMO. Number 284. June.

2005 “The Role of Intellectuals in Politics.” Mexico DF: Reforma. 04/10/2005 (coauthored with Héctor Zagal).

2004 “Historical and Political Account of Mexico City´s Mayor.” Mexico DF: Proceso. No. 1454. September (coauthored with Héctor Zagal).

2004 “Public Finance in Mexico City during the PRD Administrations.” Mexico DF: Ceateris Paribus. ITAM. August 2004.

2003 “AMLO: The Secret of Ruling Mexico City.” Mexico DF. Expansión, No. 878. November 2003 (coauthored with Héctor Zagal).