A campaign to encourage Mexican citizens who live in the United States to vote in Mexico's presidential elections next year kicked off Monday in San Diego.
The director of Mexico's autonomous Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), which coordinates federal elections, announced the start of the outreach campaign during a visit to the Mexican Consulate in San Diego.
"It's important to get the word out because of the number of Mexicans who live in California and who live around San Diego and other parts of the United States and other countries," said Leonardo Valdes Zurita, who leads IFE.
"We want to reach them all with the message that they have the right to participate and what they need to do," Valdes Zurita said.
Any Mexican citizen who lives abroad and wants to participate in the July 2012 presidential election may enroll from Oct. 1, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2012, he said. Those eligible to participate must be at least 18 years old and must have been born in Mexico or have at least one parent who was.
"They have to demonstrate that they are Mexican citizens, and that they have the credentials to vote, " he said referring to Mexico's voting cards, which are generally used as a national identity document.
Those who successfully enroll to vote from abroad will receive voting material in April and May next year. Francisco Guerrero Aguirre, another IFE official, said Mexico will likely pay for the cost to mail back the ballot to Mexico, which did not happen in 2006.
Officials said they are hoping for a bigger turnout than 2006, the first time Mexicans who lived outside the country were allowed to vote in a presidential election.
Only 32,632 Mexicans living abroad voted in that election, leading to criticism about the cost of the program given the meager participation.
About 12 million Mexican citizens who are eligible to vote live abroad, the director said. About 11.5 million live in the United States.
He said expectations were high in 2006, when voting law was still fairly new, and "there was not enough time for strategic planning."
"There was great expectation that perhaps millions of Mexicans were going to vote and when the numbers came out there was criticism, disillusion," Valdes Zurita said. He declined to say how many Mexicans he envisions voting from abroad next year.
"We don't want to create any false expectations," he said.
He said there would be greater use of technology, including social media, to reach Mexicans living abroad.
For more information about voting from abroad visit: www.ife.org.mx.
He said California is a "key" place to reach Mexicans who may want to vote in the elections next year. He added that of the 32,632 Mexicans living abroad who voted in the 2006 election, 11,268 were from California.