June 9, 2006

Few Mexicans in San Diego registered to vote in Presidential elections

Estimates say that only about 300 completed the process

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Luis Morones came legally to the United States from Mexico 50 years ago.

Due to economic and political hardships in his native country, Don Luis, as he’s called, had to leave the land he loves so much.

Since he came, he kept a close relationship with Mexico, always paying attention to the politics, to the changes taking place there.

Even though he had left his country, Don Luis, who’s 86 years old, was very interested in its present condition and its future.

He didn’t always like what was happening in Mexico. In fact, he didn’t like the way most of the politicians were ruling the country.

Throughout those long 50 years since he came to the U.S., he longed for the day when he would be able to vote in a presidential election from his San Diego home.

This year, finally, Don Luis’s dream will become a reality.

He’s one of the estimated 35,700 Mexican citizens who are registered to vote from the United States in the next Mexican presidential elections, which will be held in less than a month, on July 2, 2006.

This is the first time Mexican citizens will be able to vote in Mexican elections from abroad. Congress aproved the law that allows them to vote from abroad last year.

According to Moisés Bailón, spokesperson for Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), about 13,500 Mexican citizens are registered in California.

Although Don Luis was eager to vote from here, apathy ruled in San Diego County, where IFE estimates said that only about 300 Mexicans are registered to vote in the July 2 election.

“The response from San Diego residents was very poor,” said Alberto Lozano, spokesperson for the Mexican Consulate in San Diego. “It’s incredible.”

Lozano said that even though the Consulate handed out registration forms, had informational fliers, and created information programs to attract people to register, the San Diego numbers are low compared to the rest of the United States.

One of those reasons might be that even though there are no official numbers on this, many Mexican citizens who are legally in San Diego also have a Tijuana address. They might’ve decided to register to vote physically in Tijuana, instead of mailing their vote.

Also, there was a lot of confussion about the registration process, since Mexican citizens had to have a Credencial de Elector (Federal Voter Registration Card) in order to register.

Don Luis recently received his voting package in the mail. It contained his ballot, a small booklet with information about the five presidential candidates, and a CD and a DVD with the candidates’ proposals.

The ballot needs to be mailed by register mail or the vote will be nuled. Also, it must arrive in Mexico City by July 1, in order to be tallied with the rest of the votes on July 2.

During the registration period, IFE cancelled more than 15,000 forms because they weren’t sent via registered mail or they weren’t signed.

Enrique Morones, son of Don Luis, was a member of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, Mexico’s official group that represents Mexican nationals in the U.S., when the Mexican Congress aproved the law that allows citizens to vote from abroad.

He said that it was a long struggle for Mexicans to get that right.

“It was a battle that lasted several decades, but it was good that it’s now possible,” said Morones, who has dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship.

He said that this vote will give Mexicans abroad a saying in Mexican politics.

Before, the only saying they had was the money they sent back home.

“It’s a very important step,” said Morones, who will also participate in these elections.

Morones said that even though only about 300 San Diego residents registered, next time, without a doubt, more people in San Diego will register to vote from abroad.

“This is only the first time this is happening,” he said. “It’ll become more popular in the future.”

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