Mexicans Abroad Encouraged To Vote In Presidential Election
Celia Martinez has been hired by the Mexican electoral agency to register Mexican expats to vote in the next election. Helpers like her are stationed in Mexican consulates in 30 U.S. cities until Jan. 15.
Jude Joffe-Block
December 26, 2011

LAS VEGAS -- With more than 10 million Mexicans living in the United States, Mexico is trying to get more expats to vote in that country's upcoming presidential election. This holiday season is the final push to get voters registered before the Jan.15 deadline.

Every day, for the last two months, Celia Martinez has been stationed at the Mexican consulate in Las Vegas helping Mexican citizens register for the election on July 1, 2012.

She approaches people with a clipboard in hand. For those who register, she gives them a postage-paid envelope that will deliver their registration form to Mexico. This spring, those voters will receive a ballot in the mail, and another postage-paid envelope to send it back.

Martinez was hired by Mexico’s election agency to do this job. She has counterparts in 30 American cities, including Phoenix, San Diego and San Antonio. Helpers like her, along with the pre-paid envelopes, are among the new ways the election agency is encouraging expats to vote this election.

The agency is also operating a website dedicated to voting from abroad, as well as a Twitter account, @VotoExtranjero.

The last presidential election in 2006 was the first time that expats had the right to vote and just over 32,600 did.

“It’s a lot easier,” said Atzimba Luna, of the Mexican consulate, about the registration process this year. “It is a recognition of the rights of the citizens wherever they are.”

But as of mid-December, just a month before registration closes, fewer than 18,000 expats have registered, according to data from the Mexican election agency.

Many Mexicans living abroad can’t register because they don't have the required voter ID card, which is only issued in Mexico.

Daniel Morgan, who lives in Las Vegas, went back to Mexico to get his voter ID a few years ago.

“Definitely, if I have the opportunity to express my vote, I want to do it,” Morgan said.

He is a dual U.S. and Mexican citizen and has lived north of the border for the past 26 years, but he wants to vote out of concern for the violence in Mexico.

“Even though I live in the United States, I am still having my family [there],” Morgan said. “And definitely the decisions that have been taken in Mexico affect me one way or another.”

The 2012 race is expected to be a contest between the three major political parties.

The PAN, which is the party of current president, Felipe Calderón, has yet to officially choose a candidate. Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor of the state of Mexico, will run for the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico for 70 years until 2000. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who lost in 2006 in a contested race against Calderón, once again will be the candidate for the left-leaning PRD party.

Migrants returning to Mexico for the holidays will find voter registration kiosks in several major airports and bus stations. A recent post on the @VotoExtranjero Twitter feed shows election workers registering voters as they drive across the border.