Elections, Mexico, U.S.A.

VOTING IN TWO COUNTRIES

I was born and grew up in one country with no democracy, Mexico, and later moved to another where there was democracy, the United States.

But things have changed, luckily and after decades of struggle. And today I am luckily able to vote in both countries.

Of course there are many people who don’t agree. They believe that you should only vote in the country where you live, and that if you leave a country, you lose your rights as a citizen. But the law is not on their side. There are certain rights that are never lost.

For example, the Nationality Law of 1998 allows Mexicans to have other citizenships, without losing Mexico’s. And the United States also allows other citizenships without losing the first. Therefore, the nearly 12 million Mexicans born in Mexico and living in the United States might be able to both in both countries.

Reality is more modest, however. In the 2018 Mexican presidential elections, only 98,000 Mexicans voted abroad, most of them in the United States. But this year the process is less complicated, there are more options for voting and many more Mexicans are expected to cast their ballots abroad.

An estimated 1.4 million Mexicans living abroad have voter registration cards, a strict requirement for voting. Without that credential, we can’t. It can be easily obtained at Mexican embassies and consulates. But time is running short, and those who don’t have the credential have just a few days to apply for it.

February 20 is the deadline set by the National Electoral Council (INE) to register to vote at www.votoextranjero.mx. I already did. My voter registration card was still valid until 2028 and I could chose to vote in three ways – on the Internet, by mail or in person. That is new. Besides voting on the Internet – something we cannot do in U.S. elections – Mexicans will be able to vote in 23 consulates, almost all of them in North America, plus one in Madrid and another in Paris.

Those are the facts and process. But that has not stopped the debate about what’s legal and appropriate when it comes to voting in more than one country.

I recall a conversation years ago with Chilean writer Isabel Allende, who was born in Lima, Peru and has lived for decades in northern California. For years she was asked during public appearances if she felt more part of Chile or the United States. Until the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. That’s when she started to feel that she was not required to chose, she told me. And she started to say that she was from both countries. I went through a similar process. I lived nearly 25 years in Mexico, and when I turned 25 in the United States I became a US citizen. I have two passports, one green and one blue.

I am from Mexico, my roots and memories are there, my mother and my brothers still live in the capital, I send money like almost every other Mexican, I help with what I can and I am almost as connected with what happens there as what happens here. But I am also from the United States, have lived here longer than where I was born, my house is in Miami, where my children were born and where I have worked for more than 30 years. And although I will never stop being an immigrant, I can say with pride that I am from two countries. And that’s why I believe I have the right to vote in both countries.

Why is it important for Mexicans living abroad to vote, I asked INE adviser Arturo Castillo Loza. “I would give three arguments,” he told me. “First, because you have the right. Second, because 12 million Mexicans can tip the balance in any election. And third, because the remittances sent to Mexico, which totaled close to $63 billion in 2023, show that Mexican citizens living outside Mexico continue to have interest and continue to have ties with their loved ones on this side of the border. Do not miss the opportunity to also decide the quality of life and the future of your loved ones.”

For those of us who grew up without democracy, there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing votes counted in public, like we saw a few days ago in the Iowa caucus. Vote by vote, in a loud voice, in plain view of everyone. That is democracy. And we have to fight for that on both sides of the border.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

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