Elections dominate the 2024 news curve and not just in the U.S. Taiwan, India and Mexico are among key countries with large diaspora populations in the US that are holding national elections. At a press briefing by Ethnic Media Services, it was explored how diaspora communities interact with elections in their home countries.
This year is a very consequential year around the globe, 4 billion people in 50 countries will vote in what the New York Times calls one of the largest and most consequential demographic exercises in living memory, affecting how the world will be run for decades to come.
Kathleen Newland, Senior Fellow and Co-Founder, of Migration Policy said it has been revealed that approximately 141 countries allow their citizens abroad to vote, albeit under various conditions. Recent updates indicate that a few more countries have joined this trend, encompassing nearly three-quarters of the world’s nations.
Diaspora voting practices span a wide spectrum worldwide. While some nations actively encourage and facilitate overseas voting, about a quarter of countries completely prohibit it. In certain instances, accessibility poses a challenge, requiring citizens to physically return to their country of origin for voting—a scenario explored in detail for three specific countries.
The engagement of countries with their diasporas varies widely. From hands-off approaches, such as in the United States, where voters navigate registration procedures independently, to more facilitative measures allowing electronic or consulate voting, the global landscape of diaspora voting is diverse.
Some countries actively encourage overseas participation, with governments or political parties courting diasporas. Notably, political leaders from Taiwan, India, and Mexico have campaigned in the United States, showcasing the active courtship of diaspora voters.
The impact of diaspora voting ranges across countries, with concerns in some quarters about non-citizen voters wielding disproportionate influence. Despite the potential impact, there’s a surprising trend of eligible voters abroad not actively participating, raising questions about the effectiveness of overseas voting initiatives.
Examining the cases of India, Taiwan, and Mexico, where voters must physically return to their home country, it becomes clear that while the process may be challenging, the actual number of overseas votes may not significantly sway outcomes. The article delves into the specifics of these countries and their unique challenges in diaspora voting, Newland added.
As nations grapple with the complexities of diaspora voting, it was highlighted the wide spectrum of approaches and the ongoing debate about the level of encouragement given to overseas voters. The evolving landscape prompts a critical examination of the impact of diaspora participation on elections globally.
Dr. Diana Alarcón González, Specialist on Mexico, former chief advisor and international affairs coordinator for Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum of Mexico City explained how the pivotal role played by the Mexican diaspora, particularly in North America, with over 11 million Mexicans estimated to be living and working in the United States. This community, spanning first, second, and third generations, holds the potential to influence electoral outcomes in Mexico.
The conversation delved into the constitutional reform that expanded the definition of Mexican citizenship to include children born abroad to Mexican parents. This broadens the diaspora to potentially encompass up to 40 million Mexicans or potential Mexicans living across the globe.
Highlighting the potential impact on electoral results in Mexico, Alarcon emphasizes the importance of participation from the diaspora. Despite the vast numbers, there exists a considerable gap in the actual engagement of Mexican citizens living abroad in the voting system.
While the right to vote is granted, there is a notable disparity in participation levels. Mexicans can vote virtually, register online, use postal services, or even vote in person at consulates abroad. However, despite these options, the Alarcon lamented the persistently low turnout.
With a backdrop of the historical election in 2024, where close to 20,000 political positions, including the presidency, are up for renewal, the urgency to boost diaspora participation becomes evident. She stressed the need for increased registration and active involvement, especially from the largest segment in the diaspora – Mexicans living in the United States.
Alarcon shed light on the active campaign underway to encourage Mexicans abroad, particularly in the U.S., to register and participate in the electoral process. This push is fueled by the recognition that the decisions made in this election will shape the direction of Mexico, determining whether it will continue on the path of transformative policies initiated in 2018.
Amid the drive for political transformation, Alarcon recognized the challenges faced by Mexicans abroad in the voting process. It outlines the two-step registration process, urging swift action as the deadline looms on February 20th.