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12 million people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote in Mexico's elections


The political equivalent of a solar eclipse takes place this year because both the United States and Mexico have presidential elections. That doesn't happen every time because Mexico holds presidential elections every six years instead of four. This election matters to millions of U.S. residents, not least because 12 million people living in the United States are eligible to cast ballots in Mexico's elections if they choose. And voters this year will find it easier to do so. Gustavo Solis is the border reporter for KPBS in San Diego, and he's on the line. Good morning.

GUSTAVO SOLIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What are Mexicans voting for?

SOLIS: Well, they're voting for a lot of positions. Twenty thousand positions are at stake in this election cycle. So obviously, the presidency, the entire federal Congress, nine different governor races and a lot of local municipal races as well.

INSKEEP: That must be dramatic, to look at your ballot and see that everything is on the line.

SOLIS: Oh, it's wild. And by design, in Mexico, they have a federal election body, so the whole country sets it up instead of a state-by-state election system like we do. And they've really worked hard in the last couple of years to coordinate as many races on the ballot at the same time, to line them up with the presidential election and hopefully get some voter turnout.

INSKEEP: And it should be an interesting election - right? - because you have two presidential frontrunners who are women.

SOLIS: Yeah, that's another historic nature of this election. So it's actually super interesting. People along the border are pretty excited because there's a likelihood that Mexico gets the first female president before the U.S. does.

INSKEEP: OK, so you have a lot at stake on the ballot. And my understanding is Mexico is trying to make it easier for people and more likely that people in the United States would vote. What are they doing and why?

SOLIS: About 12 million Mexicans are living in the U.S., and they can vote if they wanted to, but historically very few of them do. Last election cycle, 69,000 voted. Sixty-nine thousand out of 12 million? Barely a drop in the bucket.


SOLIS: And what the state has been doing to do this is basically just a lot of work on the ground, you know? They've been visiting different consulates all over the country - LAist, they came here in San Diego, New York, Washington, Houston - just telling people that they have this available to them. They've been on the radio, they've been on TV. And they've really tried to make it easier than eligible to vote.

INSKEEP: When you say easier, what are the ways that people can vote if they're living in the United States?

SOLIS: Well, they can vote, you know, old school by mail. They can vote in person at one of 23 consulates if they live close enough to them. Or they can even vote online now.

INSKEEP: OK, so let's try to think about those 12 million people or the percentage of them that might vote, take the opportunity to vote in Mexico's elections this year. What are some of the kinds of things that may be on voters' minds?

SOLIS: Well, I think it's important to note that Mexicans living in the U.S. send $60 billion back home to Mexico in remittances every year. You know, this is money that goes to family, friends, relatives. And the conventional wisdom is that they should have a say in how their money is being taxed and spent, right? They clearly care about what happens back in Mexico, at least to their families, because they're sending money. And voting is a way to make sure or at least have a say in how that money is spent and maybe increase the quality of life for their friends and relatives back home.

INSKEEP: Gustavo Solis with KPBS in San Diego. Thanks so much.

SOLIS: Thank you, Steve, I really appreciate that.

(SOUNDBITE OF GIZMO VARILLAS' "PARAISO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Steve Inskee
Gustavo Solis