For the past few years, the issue of how to make it possible for the millions of Mexican adults who live outside the borders of their country to vote in Mexican elections has been debated. Many ideas were floated for how to facilitate expatriate voting, especially by Mexican adults living in the United States, of which there are now maybe 10 million or more. At some point, Thad and I will take a closer look at this issue and how the Mexican government implemented their expatriate voting program in their current election, as we have been following this for a few years, having examined this question in 2003 and 2004 when the Mexican government first started studying how to implement expatriate voting.
The current program, though, appears to have been a dud. According to recent news media reports, including a story in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, Mexican officials report having received only 17,000 applications for expatriate by-mail voting, with only two days left in their registration effort. Apparently about 10,000 of these applications have come from the United States.
At this point, there seem to be two explanations for this dud. One explanation focuses on the enormous hurdles that Mexican officials imposed for participation in the vote-by-mail effort. As Professor Wayne Cornelius of University of California, San Diego was quoted saying in the LA Times piece, “How many Americans would ever vote if they had to go in person to some government office, obtain an application, fill it out, go to a post office and return it by registered mail?” Professor Cornelius is absolutely correct — as his observations are in line with decades of academic research on the impact of registration requirements on voter participation. So as long as Mexican officials demand that expatriate voters follow such complicated and time-consuming procedures, it is unlikely that many Mexican expatriates will participate in these vote-by-mail efforts.
The other issue here seems to be a lack of publicity, and the inability of those running for office in Mexico to be able to communicate with expatriate voters. Due to a series of decisions made that appear to state that Mexican candidates could not engage in campaign communications with expatriate voters, there has been little systematic effort by those running for office to use the vote-by-mail process. Again, there is much research about the efficacy of get-out-the-vote efforts on voter participation; until the Mexican government does something to allow their candidates to compete for these expatriate votes freely, it is doubtful that the expatriate community will participate widely in Mexican elections.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:
Here are a few additional media reports that I’ve come across regarding the Mexican expatriate voting effort and how sparse the participation rate seems to be:
- Chicago Tribune, “Mexican expatriate voter drive comes up far short” (January 13).
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Ballot Application deadline here for Mexican voters living abroad” (January 14).
- USA Today, “Deadline nears in Mexican election” (January 11).
- Arizona Republic, “Few Mexicans abroad seek absentee ballots” (January 13).
We’ll keep following this evolving story, especially when final numbers emerge about how few Mexican voters abroad appear to be participating in this particular election.