For generations Mexicans have been moving abroad, mostly to the United States, where they’ve often tried to leave behind the troubled politics of home. “I never considered voting iMexico” after moving to the US, says Sergio Guerrero, a shuttle driver in Houston, who left the central state of Puebla more than two decades ago in search of work. “Why would I vote for the corrupt politicians that created the conditions that [pushed me] to leave in the first place?” Mr. Guerrero asks. But Mexicans abroad play an important role back home, largely in the form of remittances, and, observers say, they are starting to wake up to the influence they can have politically, too.
Roughly 12 million Mexicans live abroad, and those eligible to vote “could play a very important role, or even decide this year’s election” on July 1, says Rafael Fernández de Castro, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. “This is enormous. But it’s only the potential.”
Mexicans first voted in presidential elections from abroad in 2006, but turnout has been unexpectedly low. An estimated 4.2 million Mexicans outside the country were eligible to vote in 2006, and roughly 32,000 cast ballots, or less than 1 percent, according to Víctor Alejandro Espinoza, director of the Department of Public Administration Studies at Mexico’s College of the Northern Border (COLEF). In 2012, there was a slight uptick in participation, to about 40,000 ballots cast from abroad.