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Mexico's Lawmakers Split on Emigre Voting

June 25, 2005|From Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Legislators will vote next week on whether to allow Mexicans living abroad to cast ballots in the 2006 presidential election, after saying Friday that they had split on the issue with less than a week left to approve the bill.

The dispute threatens to again quash the voting rights of an estimated 11 million migrants, most in the U.S., and exposes the long-standing electoral fault lines in a country where one-tenth of the population has emigrated to find work.

The former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, voted Thursday in a lower-house committee to modify a Senate bill related to mail-in ballots; the changes call for polling places abroad.

But with the Thursday deadline for approving absentee voting approaching, other legislators suggested that some PRI lawmakers were trying to sink the initiative by returning the bill to the Senate, where the deadline would probably be missed.

"What the PRI is doing is practically sabotage, in the hopes [the bill] will wind up frozen in the Senate," said Rep. Juan Jose Garcia Ochoa of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

The PRI countered that its changes were meant to improve voting conditions for migrants and said there was still time to pass the modified bill.

"They say we want to sink it.... What we want is to guarantee that the votes of our fellow Mexicans do not give rise to electoral challenges," Rep. David Hernandez said.

He said setting up voting booths -- at consulates or storefronts where voters would turn in absentee ballots rather than mailing them -- would allow identities to be checked, thus heading off postelection challenges.

The PRI supposedly fears that emigres would vote against it because they had to leave the country for lack of work. The party ruled Mexico for 71 years, until the 2000 elections, and it is widely associated with the economic crises of the past.

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