TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Although one out of every 10 Mexicans lives in the U.S. – roughly 13 million people – experts say these immigrants will have little impact on Mexico’s July 1 presidential election.
Among 4.2 million eligible Mexican voters in the U.S., only 181,000 had registered and activated voter cards by the March 31 deadline for the mail-only election, according to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Mexico Institute, a Washington think tank tracking the election.
“[T]his would be a turnout rate of less than 5 percent,” Michael A. Paarlberg wrote in a May 17 analysis for the Mexico Institute. “And relative to a total nationwide electorate of 85 million, (voters abroad) will remain a relatively tiny constituency.”
Yuri Beltran, electoral counselor of Mexico City’s Electoral Institute, attributes the low number of U.S.-based Mexican voters partly to fear among immigrants.
“People are not very sure they want to give us an address,” he said.
Colin Deeds, the assistant director of the University of Arizona Latin American Studies program, agreed that the impact of Mexicans in the U.S. will be minimal in the election. He expects about 50 percent turnout among the 181,000 registered voters.
“It just won’t be enough to sway it,” Deeds said.
This is just the second time Mexicans living abroad can vote in their presidential election.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor and third-time candidate whose MORENA Party controls 8 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, seems to be the favored candidate. Left-leaning López Obrador has garnered support for his focus on helping everyday Mexicans and his stance against PRI, the party that has dominated Mexican politics for seven decades.
López Obrador faces PAN candidate Ricardo Anaya Cortés, a longtime party executive who has helped PAN become the main opposition to PRI; José Antonio Meade, a former secretary of three federal departments – finance, foreign relations and social development – under two presidents who represents a coalition led by the PRI ruling party; and Jaime Heliodoro Rodríguez Calderón, Mexico’s first balloted independent candidate for president.
Margarita Eaton, a native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, who now lives in Los Angeles, came to the U.S. at age 16 in 1962. She married largely to escape poverty, and within four months, she lived in El Paso with a visa and permanent residency. He husband died in 2016. She is voting for López Obrador, whom she sees as PRI’s toughest critic.
“I have seen what has happened in my country. The poverty is horrendous. I have family there – brothers, sisters. The ruling party has done nothing for the people,” Eaton said.
López Obrador has been “robbed” of the presidency twice, and she thinks he’s sincere, she said.
Lorena Howard, 58, lives in Tucson. Her husband was deported 10 years ago, so she splits her time between the U.S. and Hermosillo, Sonora, where he lives. Although she works in the immigrant community in Arizona, she doesn’t see U.S. immigration policy as a key issue in the election.
“It’s a big issue in the U.S., but it isn’t really in Mexico, unless you live near the border,” she said.
She echoed Eaton’s view that most Mexicans seem focused on getting food on the table, not U.S. immigration or trade policy.
Deeds wouldn’t rule out anything – including assassinations – but he expects a López Obrador win.
“Barring major shenanigans or criminal behavior, it appears to be his to lose,” Deeds said.
This election season has already seen over 100 politicians murdered, including 43 who were presidential candidates, according to Mexican political consulting agency Etellekt.
The Mexican government is moving toward broadening the expatriate vote, Beltran said.
In 2018, Mexicans abroad will be able to vote in national congressional elections, and lawmakers have proposed creating seats in the Senate and Chamber of Delegates for expatriates, he said.