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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mexican Expatriates Vote in 2012

The ECJ ruling against Greek expatriates trying to vote from abroad seems to be something of an exception because overall things seem to be looking up for overseas voters elsewhere.  In the U.S. the passage of the 2009 MOVE Act at the federal level cleared away some onerous (and very silly) state requirements  and made it much easier for Americans abroad to vote in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.  This year representation for French expatriates will nearly double with the addition of 11 Députés (representatives) to the already existing Senators representing the French abroad (see two candidates' websites here and here to get an idea of who is running and on what platforms). And now the estimated 11 million Mexican citizens abroad will get their chance to vote in Mexico's 2012 presidential election.  Yes, folks, Mexico is also electing a president in 2012 and their race is every bit as interesting as the one in France or the U.S.

Voting rights for Mexicans abroad is a relatively new phenomenon.  In spite of intense lobbying by Mexicans abroad, the right to participate in home country elections was denied right up until 2005.  After the law changed there were very high expectations for the first presidential race in 2006 but overseas voter turnout was quite low with only 33,000 of the millions of eligible overseas voters successfully completing the registration process and casting absentee ballots.  This is not to say, however, that they had no influence in the outcome of the election.  According to this Migration Policy Institute article Mexican overseas voters showed their preferences and their potential power:
In 2006, Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) were the primary beneficiaries of the absentee vote, together receiving 91 percent of the ballots cast from abroad in 2006. Fifty-eight percent (19,016) of the votes went to the PAN; 33 percent (11,088) went to the leftist Coalition for the Good of All, an alliance between the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Convergence, and the Labor Party; and 4 percent (1,360) went to the Alliance for Mexico, which consisted of the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The 2006 race was a close one with only 243,934 votes separating the winning candidate, Felipe Calderon, from his second-place rival.

Since that first experience in 2006 the Mexican government has worked to refine the process in order to encourage participation by overseas voters.  The Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) held a vote-from-abroad campaign and encouraged embassies and consulates to inform Mexicans abroad of their voting rights and to help them get registered.  As a result registrations were up slightly with "around 61,687 absentee ballots requested from over 100 countries (compared to 56,749 in 2006)." That is a mere drop in the bucket when one consider the millions of Mexican citizens who live abroad. Why are the numbers so low?  The reasons, according to MPI, are enough to make one weep.  While lack of information and an easy clear process are surely factors there are others that relate directly to the status of Mexican citizens in their host countries. While Mexican migrants can be found all over the globe, most live in the United States of America, in states like California and Texas.  Because many are undocumented (or have relatives who are) they are afraid that the U.S. government will intercept their ballots via the postal service and trace them back in order to deport them.

I can completely understand their fear but it makes me queasy to think that people are so scared of my home country (their host) government that they are afraid to vote in their own.  Since I don't believe that the American election will change much for migrants in the U.S. I'd say that the only realistic solution here to increase Mexican overseas voter participation would be a secure system of on-line voting.   A suivre.

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