Thursday, June 13, 2024

Mexicans living abroad turn out en masse to vote for their first female president

Mexicans living abroad participated in Mexico’s June 2 presidential election in unprecedented numbers, casting over 180,000 votes from around the world.

The election that pitted former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum against former senator Xóchitl Gálvez marked the first time Mexican nationals could cast an in-person ballot on foreign soil for an election in Mexico. As in past elections, they could also vote by mail or electronically.

Arturo Castillo, president of the Temporary Voting Commission of Mexicans Living Abroad, shared that 39,590 ballots were received by mail, 135,331 votes were cast online, and 5,755 were cast in person at 23 consulates in the United States, Canada and Europe.

According to Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE), there were 258,461 Mexicans abroad who were registered to vote in Sunday’s election, the most in history. That number temporarily shrank when some 40,000 people were removed from the voting rolls in April, although 36,570 were subsequently reinstated.

This year’s 180,676 total votes from outside Mexico easily topped the 2018 presidential election’s 98,854 votes from abroad, including 37,000 that were cast online.

Voting hubs experienced significant congestion, with Madrid and Paris extending voting hours until 2 a.m. to accommodate the high turnout.

In Madrid, where seven polling stations were set up, voters arrived as early as 4 a.m. and some waited up to 15 hours to cast their ballots.

In the United States, long lines were a common sight at consulates in cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. 

Technical issues with the new electronic voting system further slowed the process, especially for older voters unfamiliar with the technology. Another factor slowing things down was that those who had a valid Mexican voting ID card could vote even if they had not yet registered. 

Ricardo Sánchez, an INE liaison, noted that by midday, only 150 out of 1,000 people in line had managed to vote in Washington, D.C.

In Fresno, long, slow-moving lines and hot weather had people on edge. By Sunday afternoon, there were more than 1,000 people in line, according to the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno, but many were reportedly turned away when the consulate closed its doors at 5 p.m.

“I was here in the morning, and I came back, and the line never ended,” frustrated would-be voter Nayamin Martinez told Fresno TV station KFSN. “About 10 minutes before 5 p.m., they came out and said roughly 600 people have voted but [that] we’re closing.”

Similar scenes played out in San Francisco, Phoenix and Chicago, where the influx of voters caused street closures.

“In some cases,” the INE noted in a statement to the Associated Press, “the large influx of people wishing to vote at the consular headquarters has exceeded expectations.”

“This is sad,” voter Abel Vences told Chicago TV station WLS. The INE “wasn’t ready and was not respectful.”

Despite the challenges, voters in several cities sang traditional Mexican songs, such as “Cielito Lindo,” while waiting in line. In Los Angeles, voters draped in Mexican flags cheered each time a ballot was cast, and street vendors sold food and snacks to those in line.

Claudia Zavala, another member of the Temporary Voting Commission, acknowledged the issues and emphasized the need for future improvements.

With reports from Milenio, La Jornada, N+ and CNN en Español

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