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Year 3 No. 8 May 2010

The vote of Mexicans overseas - Dalia Moreno López

Dalia Moreno López

Responsible of the Office of the Electoral Link of the Mexicans who are Overseas
in the Coordination of International Affairs of the IFE.



B.A. in Political Science by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana; a degree in Latin American Studies by the University of the Sorbona, Paris, and a Masters in Decentralized Cooperation Europe-Latin America by the same university. She was Program Assistant of the United Towns Organization (UTO) in Paris; in 2002, she became the Representative in Mexico for this organization. From 2004 to 2006, she was Director of the Mexican French Program for Municipal Cooperation at the Observatory of Changes in Latin America. From 2006 to 2008, she was Director of Decentralization of the National Institute for Federalism and Municipal Development at the Mexican Ministry of the Interior. Since 2009, she is the Head of the Liasion Electoral Office for the Mexicans Living Abroad at the Federal Electoral Institute. Moreover she has been chair professor at the Tec de Monterrey; has coordinated diverse publications and written in national and international magazines; has participated in national and international forums and congresses; and has been external consultant for the local government of Ile de France, for the Decentralized Cooperation Observatory of Barcelona, and for the European consulting offices such as SOFRECO and ECORIS in Paris.

Currently there are approximately 30 million Mexicans living outside Mexico.  It is estimated that 98% are located in the United States and of these, approximately 11 million are Mexican citizens, i.e. are 18 years old and older.

The figure is essential to understand the scope of what the vote of Mexicans abroad means for the Mexican electoral system and therefore necessary to understand why this move towards political inclusion election in Mexico must transit through a long political, legal and technical consensus.

Background and context for the approval of the law

Mexico managed to pass the vote of Mexicans abroad after nearly 10 years of legislative discussions.  The first demands of migrant organizations emerged in the '90s, and between 1998 and 2005 the nineteen bills were presented prior to the publication of the decree that reformed the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures in regard to the vote of Mexicans abroad.

The fundamental background that triggered the possibility of voting abroad was in August 1996 when the electoral constitutional framework was amended to allow the public to cast their ballots outside the election district they belong.  That same year, constitutional laws were reformed to recognize dual nationality, so that in such circumstances, discussions regarding voting abroad were resumed in Congress to the point of approving the creation of a commission of specialists whose goal was to make a study on the modalities and feasibility of the vote abroad.

Discussions circulated between the definition of a model to give confidence and credibility to the election, and a system that would meet the demands of fellow citizen abroad.  This was extremely complex and risky for the political forces because of the scale of the potential electorate abroad and due to the characteristics of the Mexican electoral system, which by the country's electoral political history, has been permeated by the pressing need to provide confidence and certainty to political parties and citizens.

The Specialist Commission ruled the feasibility of voting abroad, the different modalities for the case of Mexico and estimated the possible universe of voters abroad.  On this study were analyzed the scenarios and after several legislative proposals to vote abroad, which range from the creation of a district to ensure parliamentary representation for migrants to the possibility of the establishment of offices of the Federal Electoral Institute abroad, the Mexican Congress chose the model of voting by registered post and only for the president of Mexico.

Thus on June 28, 2005 , the reform decree regulating the vote overseas was approved.

The Mexican model of postal vote

The characteristics that make up the model of voting abroad, ruled a year before the presidential election can be summarized in the following areas:

1)It is a model of voting abroad by certified mail.

2)It is restricted only to cast the vote for the president of Mexico.

3)The record is shaped by the application of the citizen to register in a voter registration list abroad, sending the requirements within 105 days after the start of the electoral process.

4)The counting and calculation is performed in a unique venue.

5)It prohibits political campaigns abroad.

In a very succinct manner, these are the procedures:

The citizen must apply through a specific format named entry in the voters living abroad registration list.  This list is temporary, so for the presidential election and in order to vote abroad, the citizen agrees to be removed from the voter registration list .  It is important to note that to ensure citizens that their information will only be used for these purposes, the law envisaged that at all times the IFE and political parties would safeguard the confidentiality of their data because of the situation and immigration conditions facing most Mexican citizens who are migrants in the United States.

Vote overseas

Once the voters living abroad list is validated by political parties and the Electoral Federal Tribunal, IFE can order the printing of ballots to schedule delivery to citizens.  The citizen receives at home abroad an "electoral voting package" by registered mail including the ballot, an instruction, the pre-paid postage for the citizen to send its envelope from its place of residence, written material on the platforms of the political parties and a video with messages from the presidential candidates. The envelope containing the vote of the citizens must be sent one day before Election Day, and the scrutiny and counting will take place in one place where citizens and previously trained staff count the votes in the presence of representatives of political parties.


Results and Numbers to consider about the first experience of the Mexicans voting abroad


Based on a potential universe of 4.2 million voter citizens abroad, the IFE prepared the federal elections of 2006 only eleven months in advance. Fortunately, the IFE had the support of Congress regarding sufficient resources to implement the necessary mechanisms for the registration, organization, training, screening and calculation, personnel and the dissemination within and outside the country.


Approximately ,000 of the ,000 appropriated by Congress were used for the vote abroad.  This difference accounts for the registration of approximately 40,876 citizens or about 1% of the expected numbers.


Of these, the total votes cast according to legal requirements were 32,632.  The surprising results were managed critically by the public due to the high cost of the vote abroad. However it is worth noting that the dimension of this procedure, the vote abroad lacked the support of political parties, candidates and citizens, in a highly competitive presidential election where the difference between presidential candidates was less than 0.56%.  The procedures for the vote abroad were transparent and guaranteed the credibility and confidence of all stakeholders.


The challenges and the actions taken by the IFE towards 2012


The first vote abroad Mexican experience meant a democratic progress and a great learning experience for all the players who participated in it. The postal voting scheme was innovative for Mexico and allowed the introduction of sophisticated, reliable technical and logistical arrangements.


IFE is currently considering all the variables that impacted the effectiveness of the results and the diagnostic evaluations have been a source of analysis to facilitate procedures for the future.

IFE’s working session

Thus, for example, and given that the Coordination of Vote of Mexicans Abroad adjourned its activities in late 2006, IFE created in January 2009 the Office of Electoral Linkage of Mexicans Abroad and a permanent directorate within IFE’s Coordination of International Affairs.


The main objective of this small area is to support a closer relationship with citizens living abroad and from which actions have caused within the IFE to improve existing procedures for the next presidential election.


Current challenges for the Institute are primary located along two axes.  On the one hand, in the legislative field, this means the decision of Congress to pass reforms that improve the model or radically change it. On the other hand, in the field of administrative simplification, this corresponds to the IFE’s task of implementing mechanisms to facilitate the process, even if no legislative changes are approved.


In both axes the IFE is ready and is currently working to promote the strengthening of the vote of Mexicans abroad for the 2012 presidential election.

2. The approved decree was published in the Official Daily Journal of the Federation on June 30th, 2005, in its afternoon edition.

3. In Mexico, the Nominal List of Electors is the relation of the citizens who are subscribed to the Electoral Census and whose credential to vote has been handled in.  The Nominal List of Electors who Reside Overseas, is the relation of citizens with credential to vote that live overseas and that requested their registry in that list.  Federal Code of Institutions and Electoral Procedures.  IFE.