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Registration For Mexican Expats To Vote In Election Lags In US

In order to vote, Mexican citizens must have a voter card. Since the cards are only issued in Mexico, the requirement has been a barrier for some expats wishing to participate.
Photo courtesy IFE
In order to vote, Mexican citizens must have a voter card. Since the cards are only issued in Mexico, the requirement has been a barrier for some expats wishing to participate.
Mexican Expat Registration
Only a small fraction of Mexican citizens living in the U.S. signed up to vote in their home country’s July presidential election. Registration barriers and apathy could be to blame.

Mexico's Presidential Race

The July 1 Mexican presidential election is expected to be a three-way contest between the major political parties.

Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor from the state of Mexico, will run under the banner of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party that ran Mexico for 70 years until 2000.

Josefina Vázquez Mota, a former congresswoman and cabinet member who aspires to be Mexico's first female president, is from the incumbent National Action Party (PAN).

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor from the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), is running again after he lost the 2006 election by a razor thin margin.

Mexican election officials made a push this winter to get Mexicans expats signed up to vote in that country's July presidential election. But figures released by Mexico’s federal election agency on Friday show only modest gains in the number of ballot requests mailed in worldwide compared to last election, and a drop in applications from Mexicans living in the U.S.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Voter registration for Mexican expats will not be finalized until later this Spring when election officials determine which voter applications are valid and create the final expat voter list. An earlier version of this story indicated that Mexican expats had completed the registration process. The Fronteras Desk regrets the error.

In 2006, the estimated 10 million adult Mexican citizens living in the U.S. had the chance to vote for Mexico's president for the first time. Yet only a tiny fraction registered for an absentee ballot.


So the hope was that 2012 would be different. But as University of Nevada, Las Vegas political scientist John Tuman put it after reviewing the numbers: “Not much has changed since 2006, and that is somewhat disappointing.”

Just 47,157 Mexicans in the U.S. mailed in an application for an absentee ballot before the Jan. 15 deadline, a 6 percent drop from 2006.

Expat voter registration will not be finalized until later this spring when Mexican election officials determine which applications are valid, and create a final list of eligible voters.

There were a few changes this year that should have made it easier for potential voters to register, such as free postage to mail in registration forms, and election workers stationed at 30 Mexican consulates.

But a major obstacle remained: In order to register and request a ballot, Mexican citizens needed to have a voter card that is only issued in Mexico.


“And that seems to be a large barrier, and it hasn’t been addressed,” Tuman said.

Some Mexican officials are calling for voter cards to be issued abroad.

Mexican immigrant Benjamin Ramirez, who has been working in Las Vegas for the past eight years, hopes that reform happens before the next election.

Ramirez leads a club of Mexican immigrants who send money home to their home state of Jalisco, but he says many wont be able to vote because they don’t have a voter card and can’t return to Mexico to get one.

“If [Mexicans abroad] are supporting the Mexican economy by sending money home, they deserve to get something in return,” said Ramirez in Spanish.

Yet apathy may also explain low registration rates among Mexican expats.

“Mexico has a history of corrupted elections,” said Lorena Pike, a Las Vegas Spanish instructor and domestic violence counselor from Mexico City. Pike requested a ballot, but had trouble convincing others to do the same.

“Probably, we as citizens don't want to exercise the right, because we think, ‘Well it is going to be the same thing,'” she said.

The total number of Mexican expats around the globe who registered for a ballot increased from 56,749 in 2006 to 61,687, according to Mexico’s federal election agency.

About 76 percent of the applications came from Mexicans living in the U.S., though Mexican citizens living in 113 different countries around the globe signed up to vote.

Twenty-six percent of the ballot requests from the U.S. came from Mexicans living in California, 15 percent were from Texas, and 11 percent were from Illinois.

Eligible voters are expected to receive their ballots by mail in April or May.