LATINO VOICES

Absentee Voter Registration Begins For Mexicans In The U.S.

10/05/2011 07:18 am ET | Updated Dec 04, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- Mexican nationals in the U.S. and in 112 other nations can now register to vote in their country’s July 1, 2012 presidential election.

“The registration period [began] Oct. 1, 2011 and ends Jan. 15, 2012,” said Dalia Moreno, general coordinator for overseas voter outreach at Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the public, independent organization that oversees national elections in Mexico.

"Mexican voters abroad will receive their absentee ballots by mail between April 16 and May 20, 2012. And we will pay the shipping,” added Moreno, who spoke to HuffPost Latino in Spanish.

She said the IFE guarantees the privacy of all personal information obtained during registration and voting, which she said will be used exclusively to verify voter eligibility. “We safeguard the secrecy of the vote, and the personal data is held in the strictest confidence.”

To exercise their right to vote, Mexicans in the U.S. have to apply at the Mexican embassy or a consulate. They can also visit Voto Extranjero online and mail in an application.

“For those with internet access, completing the application online is best, although they still must print and mail it. Those without computer access have to visit the Mexican consulates,” Moreno said.

Even Mexican nationals with dual citizenship can participate in the presidential election. However, they are not allowed to vote for congressional representatives, according to the IFE.

Mexican citizens who reside in the U.S. had their first opportunity to elect a president in 2006. Back then, postal ballots were an innovation for Mexico’s electoral system, which beforehand relied on on-site voting.

12 million Mexicans are estimated to live outside their country, and the IFE considers about 2.5 million of them to be potential voters. However, only 56,312 registered abroad in 2006 -- and 58 percent of those voted -- for a total of 32,632 absentee ballots.

A Pew Hispanic Center survey that year attributed the low numbers to “strict requirements, insufficient information about registration procedures and lack of public interest,” stating that 55 percent of Mexicans in the U.S. were not even aware that a presidential election was taking place.

Among other changes aimed at improving voter participation, the IFE said they will pay for the absentee ballots shipping cost -- ranging from $8 to $16 each -- instead of having voters pay for it.

This year, the Mexican House of Representatives approved 96 million pesos, or about $6.6 million dollars, for Mexicans to vote abroad -- only one-third of the original 2005-2006 allocation. The IFE calculates that paying the cost of shipping will add an additional $3.1 million to the 2012 budget.

“We cannot know exactly how many potential registered voters will cast their votes, but our ultimate goal is for a higher turnout than the 2006 presidential election,“ said Moreno.

For more information, contact Vote of Mexican Residents Abroad toll free at 1-866-986-8306, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CST), Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST); or visit www.votoextranjero.mx.

This report originally appeared in Spanish at AOL Noticias.

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