Ticos living abroad may be able to cast their votes in Costa Rican elections without returning home, the foreign minister and the president of the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) announced Friday. Currently, the estimated 20,000 Costa Ricans that live abroad must return to Costa Rica in order to cast a valid vote in elections and referendums.
“This is the first time in the history of the country that Costa Ricans around the world will have the opportunity to go to their consulates to vote,” said Foreign Minister Rene Castro. “We have met with experts in foreign policy and the voting process and we are making sure we are taking the right steps to assure that this first experience is entirely successful and that foreign residents will be able to vote in upcoming elections and referendums, including the presidential elections of 2014.”
Castro said that the first step in the process will require that Ticos living abroad file a change of residency form. Castro said identifying Costa Ricans living abroad will allow the TSE to coordinate with the nation’s consulates in order to facilitate voting. Currently, Costa Rica has consulates in 45 countries, with the majority of Tico expatriates living in the U.S., particularly in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Castro also said there are sizeable communities of Costa Ricans living in Spain, Japan and Brazil.
The push to assure foreign voting stems from the new electoral code passed in early September. The code states that “the foreign relations minister, in coordination with the TSE, should use all means necessary to allow the receiving of foreign votes.”
The inability of Costa Ricans living abroad to vote has long been considered a serious flaw in the nation’s electoral process because it disenfranchises those who are unable to return home to vote. This defect has been a point of contention during and after close elections, such as the referendum on the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. in 2007, which was decided by 50,000 votes, and the presidential election of 2006, which was won by former President Oscar Arias by a margin of only 18,000 votes over Citizen Action Party candidate Ottón Solís.
The TSE is hopeful that the reform can be implemented by November, in time for the nationwide Dec. 5 mayoral elections. However, it’s also possible that Ticos living abroad may be able vote this year on a referendum on whether or not to legalize homosexual unions. Groups both for and against such unions are seeking signatures to put the issue to a popular vote.