December 30, 2004

Voting Almost a Reality for Mexicans Abroad

By Juan Esparza Loera

Four years ago, when millions of Mexicans went to the polls to help Mexican President Vicente Fox end a seven-decade hold on the presidency by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), almost 2,000 Mexican nationals in the San Joaquín Valley voted too.

However, the Valley votes — of which 60 percent favored Fox – were only symbolic. As Mexican nationals living outside of Mexico, their votes do not count in their country’s elections.

When Mexico selects Fox’s successor in two years, all this may change. These votes may finally be counted – but only if Noé Hernández, Teresa De La Rosa and other members of the consulting committee of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad in the San Joaquín Valley can convince the Mexican Congress that Mexicans living abroad should have the right to vote.

Last week, the lower house of Congress took the first step when the Interior Committee and the Population, Borders and Migration Committee unanimously approved a proposal that will allow Mexicans abroad to cast a vote in the 2006 presidential election.

The lower house is expected to approve the measure in February. Then the proposal must be approved by the Senate and signed by President Fox.

Although the adopted measure by the committees didn’t have everything that Hernández and De La Rosa wanted, they said it was a good start.

“It fell far short of what we requested,” said De La Rosa, who spoke in support of the measure earlier this month at a meeting with President Fox and Mexican officials. “But it’s a good beginning. There is still a lot to do.”

However, she said, “the battle hasn’t been won yet.”

This is one of the reasons Hernández traveled to the Mexican capital last Monday and Tuesday to lobby Mexican lawmakers.

“We need to lobby, enlighten them and win them over,” said Hernández.

De La Rosa gave credit to Fox for pressuring the political parties to support the measure.

“I believe the president heard our (committee) members during my speech. They stood up and said they wanted the vote. Fox also stood up,” said De La Rosa. “At least, he appears to be with us.”

The bill would allow absentee voting only for those Mexicans who are already registered to vote. It would forbid political campaigning or advertising outside of Mexico. It would also only set up polls in cities that have at least 15,000 registered voters.

“That’s not what we asked for,” said De La Rosa. “We wanted voting throughout the United States, and we also wanted to allow voter registration here.”

Hernández and De La Rosa said it will be up to Mexican nationals living in the Valley to do their part if they want to vote in 2006. Only about four million of an estimated 10 million Mexican nationals in the United States are currently registered to vote in Mexico.

Hernández said he and other committee members will inform “our communities to go out and vote.”

“It will be a historic vote,” said Hernández. “For the first time in the United States, Mexicans will be allowed to vote for the Mexican president.”

Reprinted from Vida en el Valle, December 28, 2004.

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