July 7, 2006

Mexicans living in the United States faced several problems when voting in Tijuana

By Luis Alonso Pérez

The severe shortage of electoral ballots and the overall slowness of the voting process caused several annoyances and a general discontent among Mexicans residing in the United States who crossed the border last weekend to vote in one of the 18 “special” voting centers in Tijuana.

Since early Sunday morning long lines of 300 or more people were formed around the voting centers designed for people traveling or living far from their homes. In some places, they opened an hour late, making people who where there on time very angry.

Twenty thousand ballots where designated by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) to give the right to vote to Mexicans living away from their homes or outside the country. However, the number was dwarfed compared to the number of people who wished to vote. In some places like the Tijuana’s international airport, they ran out of ballots around noon.

A Mexican citizen who wished to remain unnamed traveled to Tijuana from Tracy, California to vote for his next president. He left his home on Saturday, spent the night in San Diego and crossed the border early Sunday morning. The trip cost him about 300 dollars and a whole weekend of relaxing.

It is three in the afternoon and he has been waiting in line for about three hours. He got to the voting center downtown early that day, but they told him to go to Playas because they were about to run out of ballots. His place in line indicates he will be waiting in line for at least an hour more, but this is the first time he votes for president and even though this is a heavy wait, he has the desire to speak his mind though his vote.

Around five o’clock the ballots in Playas were gone, but the line was still very long. Citizens waited under the blazing sun with a red ticket in their hand that was given to them so they can exchange it for a voting ballot when they get to the voting station.

Many people who could not vote in playas went to the neighboring colonia Soler. There José Hernández Cárdenas, from National City has been waiting in line for a long time and requites the last presidential election when he also voted in Tijuana, but took only an hour to get it done.

Hernandez and a group of friends went down to Tijuana to vote and enjoy the rest of the day in downtown, but their pleasure time was cut short severely. They will return on the same day to National City, it’s almost 6 o’clock, the voting centers are about to finish and they are not certain if their efforts will pay off.

Even when closing time for voting centers was 6 pm, a long line of voters waited in the Aguacaliente Tower –historic Tijuana landmark– for several hours.

Luis Arechiga, a Mexico City native who now lives in National City has been waiting for two and a half hours and his line is so slow it appears it’s not moving. He is not sure he will still be able to get an electoral ballot, but he does not want to go home because he considers voting “one of the few rights Mexicans don’t have to pay for.”

Around 7:30p.m. the sun went down on Tijuana, citizens were still waiting in line but some were considering going home. Cecilia Uribe and Salomon Bautista came all the way from Los Angeles and they were very upset with the organization. They noticed that there was only one computer to check the voter’s registration and scan their voting cards.

It’s late and they hadn’t had a chance to get lunch. “We came here like good citizens to fulfill our duties, but they are the ones not fulfilling their duties”.

After 8 pm they ran out of ballots in the Aguacaliente Tower and other voting centers in town. When they announced there where no more ballots people got very upset and most of them returned home very disappointed.

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