NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mexicans In U.S. May Vote In Coming Mexican Elections

December 7, 1998

The government of Mexico is mulling a study of how its citizens living north of the border could vote in their country's 2000 elections. The final decision could send millions of Mexicans to improvised polling places in such spots as Los Angeles, Houston and New York City.

The study was set in motion in July 1996 when Mexico's Congress deleted a clause in the country's constitution requiring Mexicans to vote in their home districts and mandated the Electoral Institute, which organizes Mexican elections, to study ways of extending the presidential vote to Mexicans living abroad.

Some observers predict the voting would anger many Americans and lead to a political explosion. There is even some question as to whether U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents would raid polling places to round up Mexicans living here illegally. It has been estimated that as much as 15 percent of potential Mexican voters live outside their country's borders.

  • Nearly 10 million potential Mexican voters live north of the border -- including 7.1 million Mexican-born immigrants and 2.7 million adult children of Mexican-born parents, who could exercise the right to vote.
  • Three out of four Mexican immigrants live in 33 counties in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Georgia and New York, according to the report.
  • Extending Mexico's vote north would cost between $76 million and $356 million, the report estimated.
  • The study said that 83 percent of Mexicans living in the U.S. want to help choose the Mexican president, but many said they could spare little time to register or to cast ballots.

Allies of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, argue that encouraging voting abroad would be too costly and complicated. Some observers, however, theorize that many Mexicans living in the U.S. blame the PRI for the economic blunders that forced them to emigrate -- and so would vote for the opposition.

Source: Sam Dillon, "Mexico Weighs Voting by Its Emigrants in U.S.," New York Times, December 7, 1998.


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