07/09/12—Of the 12 million Mexican citizens living in the United States and technically eligible to vote in their home country, in the recent Mexican elections only 60,000 successfully completed the voter registration process, according to Univisión. This is largely due to the fact that Mexicans can not obtain their national voter ID card (credencial electoral) from abroad.
According to the Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE), 77% of voting-eligible Mexicans abroad live in the United States, of which the U.S. 2010 Census reports 457,288 reside in the state of New York. Yet, leading up to the 2012 elections, the IFE only received 2,513 applications to vote from abroad from New York, representing roughly .5% of the eligible N.Y. voters.
The situation persists in spite of the Mexican constitution’s explicit guarantee of citizens’ right to vote from abroad (Articles 35 and 36), 2005 legislative reforms aimed at implementing this, and the IFE’s “ongoing campaign to promote voting from abroad.” “This is illogical,” comments activist Roberto P. González of New York’s Paz en México. “They ask us to vote, but without giving us the opportunity to obtain voter IDs.” Peggy Jarami of Dallas, a Mexican citizen who recently traveled to Mexico with the United Nations as an elections observer, called “the vote of Mexican’s living abroad a source of shame for all Mexicans.” Carlos Arango, another U.N. international observer and Mexican citizen residing in the United States, noted that “when it has to do with remittances” Mexico looks favorably to us, “but when it comes to political rights, it’s another matter entirely…The political parties don’t consider us Mexicans living on the other side of the border as deserving, as part of México.”
Mexicans living abroad, including Jarami, “have been fighting for the right to receive voter IDs from abroad for eight years now, to be counted, and no one wants to count us.” Karla Quiñonez, president of Brooklyn’s Adelante Alliance, laments, “we have been demanding voter IDs since the 2006 elections. Another six-year term is about to end, and…our voices have still not been heard.” Quiñonez reports that many Mexicans in her community do possess voter ID cards, but as they received them in the 1960’s or 1970’s, the last time they were in Mexico, the IFE no longer considers them valid for voting purposes. Jesús Salas of Florida, another Mexican-American U.N. elections observer, questioned what the Mexican government realistically expects people like him living abroad to do. “I don’t think we are going to go to Mexico, get the card, and then travel back to the U.S. hidden in a car truck or walking through the desert,” he commented.
Univisión reporter María Antonia Collins explained that “the electoral mathematics are opening many people’s eyes. For example, of the 60,000 [Mexicans in the United States] who were able to register, almost 70% voted, which is a higher rate than that of registered voters within Mexican territory.” Collins suggests what Arango has concluded: “the political parties are afraid that the elections could be decided outside of Mexico.”
Whether or not this is the case, it seems clear that, as Arango argues, voters abroad simply can not and will not vote unless the Mexican government issues their voter IDs.