February 22, 2006

Pew Hispanic Center Survey of Mexicans Living in the U.S. on Absentee Voting in Mexican Elections

Appendix 2: Background on Absentee Voting in Latin America

Mexico’s attempt to enfranchise expatriates is not unique in Latin America. Extending the vote to citizens abroad has been around for years in some countries. Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, are among the Latin American countries that currently allow citizens abroad to vote. Ecuador, like Mexico, will allow citizens to vote for the first time in its presidential elections in 2006. As was the case in Mexico, the effort to enfranchise citizens who have emigrated has both proponents and detractors. Chile has been debating the issue since at least 2000, when the current legislative effort was first introduced. A recent poll there found that about 73 percent of Chileans support granting the vote to citizens abroad.

Data on the expatriate vote from Latin America, including the number of potential voters, those who register and the turnout—are not readily available. In Ecuador, the president of the national electoral tribunal recently told El Comercio newspaper that this year’s vote would probably attract only about only 10 percent of the 3 million Ecuadorians living abroad. Of these, he estimated that only 10 percent, or 30,000 Ecuadorians would actually vote. At a recent conference on the expatriate vote in Latin America, held in Chile, a Peruvian government official said that country has about 250,000 voters registered in different countries.

The Dominican Republic’s electoral board lists the expatriate vote on its website. Of the 11 sites around the world, six are in the United States and one is in Puerto Rico. In the U.S. cities and in Puerto Rico, 42,000 Dominicans registered to vote in 2004. Of these, about 30,000, or 71 percent, voted. There are about 670,000 Dominicans 18 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Spain, which has more than 1 million expatriates around the world, had a very high rate of voting in 2005. According to The Spain Herald, more than 330,000 Spaniards living overseas voted in that election.