Extension possible for Mexican expatriate voters?

There’s an interesting opinion piece by Bill Mundell, talking about the problems with the Mexican expatriate vote process. He concludes with an interesting proposal:

Unfortunately, the Mexican government cut off registration to the July elections at Jan. 15, almost seven months before the vote. The result is that the Mexican vote abroad will be inconsequential. If the Mexican government really intended to provide a voice for its sizeable contingent living abroad, it should extend the deadline until at least June.

That’s a good proposal, though not one that the Mexican government is likely to heed.

This comes in the wake of a very useful survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center on this subject; they surveyed 987 Mexican-born adults living in the United States, about their knowledge of and participation in the current absentee voting process. A brief summary of this survey states:

Strict requirements, insufficient information about registration procedures and lack of public interest hobbled Mexico’s first effort to conduct absentee voting among its more than ten million adult citizens living in the United States, according to a Pew Hispanic Center survey. About one-half of one percent of Mexicans in the U.S. sought absentee ballots for the presidential election in July during a registration period which ended last month.

The survey found that more than half (55%) of Mexicans in the U.S. were not aware that a presidential election is taking place this year and that few were familiar with the regulations and procedures adopted by the Mexican government last June when it authorized absentee voting for Mexicans abroad. About a third knew that the deadline for seeking an absentee ballot had just passed at the time of the survey. Only one of every ten eligible voters could correctly answer a set of factual questions about the procedures for getting a ballot.

The survey findings are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 987 Mexican-born adults living in the United States.

The website that the Pew Hispanic Center has for this survey also has a few other very useful links to both official information sources about the Mexican expatriate voting program as well as some external research.

The Pew survey reached some very important conclusions about the Mexican expatriate voting program.

First, they used a series of factual quiz-style questions to probe whether their survey respondents were informed about the voting program. The conclusion — very few of the respondents were sufficiently informed to be able to follow the rules established to apply for an absentee ballot. Only about a fifth of their all Mexicans living in the U.S. or eligible voters could even tell survey interviewers the correct deadline for filing an absentee ballot application; even worse, only about half of eligible voters even knew that there was an upcoming presidential election and when it was being held.

Second, the survey indicated that the rigorous procedures that the Mexican government required for participation by expatriates in the absentee voting process may have served as significant barriers to participation. The interviewers asked survey respondents who did not register to vote in the election five different reasons for not registering: whether they felt they were not suffficiently informed, never received enough information, that Mexican elections are not important to their life in the United States, the application process was difficult and complicated, or that they simply did not have the necessary credentials.

Fifty-six percent of the otherwise eligible voters who did not register agreed that the registration process itself was too difficult and complicated, and this explanation emerged as the most agreed-upon factor in this set of survey questions. Fifth-four percent of the same group said they were not sufficiently informed about Mexican politics to vote, 52% did not have enough information to register, 51% did not have the necessary documentation, and 29% agreed that their life in the United States has rendered Mexican elections unimportant to them.

Note here that 56% of eligible voters who did not register saw the process as too difficult and complicated, 52% didn’t get enough information to register, and 51% did not have the necessary documents. Clearly the procedures were barriers to participation by otherwise eligible voters.