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Mexicans abroad can vote by mail

Knight Ridder

MEXICO CITY — The lower house of Congress on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a law that allows millions of Mexicans living outside Mexico to vote by mail in the country’s 2006 presidential election, a decision supporters hailed as “historic.”

The law could have a deep impact on the race for president, given the approximately 10 million Mexicans in the United States. California and Texas have the greatest concentrations of Mexicans.

There’s little reliable information, however, about which candidate or party would most benefit in the election, scheduled for July 2, 2006.

“Everything we’ve done for the last 12 years suggests people abroad will vote in the same way their families do in the home country,” said pollster Dan Lund of MUND Americas. “The fact that all three large parties got together on this suggests no party saw the other as having the advantage.”

Meeting immediately after two committees approved the bill in joint session, the Chamber of Deputies adopted the measure, 455-6, with six abstentions. The bill previously was approved by the Senate and now goes to President Vicente Fox, who has said he will sign it.

“This is a first for Mexicans, a recognition that all Mexicans have the right to participate,” Gonzalo Badillo, a member of a coalition supporting the measure, said after the vote. “This is a historic right.”

Luis Antonio Gonzalez Roldan of the Green Party urged that the government construct a reliable infrastructure to guarantee the postal vote.

Mexico’s postal service, which has long been criticized for inefficiency, will be responsible for sending out ballots. Only those Mexicans living abroad who have credentials to vote in Mexico will be allowed to cast ballots next year.

Mexico has a population of 105 million. In addition to the 10 million Mexicans estimated to live in the United States, both legally and without documentation, perhaps another 1 million reside in other countries.

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