Presidential candidates in Costa Rica are trying to reach more than 12,000 Ticos living abroad who have registered to vote at their closest consulate or embassy. For the first time, Costa Ricans will be allowed to vote from overseas in the upcoming Feb. 2 elections for president, vice presidents, lawmakers and municipal officials.
The Immigration Administration estimates that more than 250,000 Ticos live abroad, but only 12,654 – or 5 percent – registered before the Oct. 2 deadline. Consulates in New York, Los Angeles and Miami registered the largest number of voters, totaling more than 5,000 combined.
“Many people live far away and they cannot travel to a consulate,” said Silvia Ugalde, Costa Rica’s consul in Los Angeles, which serves 11 states in the western United States. To reach as many voters as possible, the consulate posted news and videos about the upcoming elections on its Facebook page.
“Social media is an excellent tool to keep in touch with people who live abroad and those who have expressed their interest in promoting Johnny Araya’s candidacy,” said Juan Alberto Corrales, coordinator of overseas voters for the presidential campaign of San José ex-Mayor Johnny Araya, of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN).
On Wednesday, the candidate announced a meeting with Tico voters in Mexico City as part of a three-day tour of that country. Mexico has the third-largest number of Costa Rican voters abroad after the U.S. and Canada.
Supporters of Citizen Action Party (PAC) candidate Luis Guillermo Solís sent videos from New Jersey, Chicago, the Netherlands, and Australia to express their encouragement.
Solís plans to participate in Skype meetings with voters from abroad to answer questions regarding national issues.
A young PAC supporter, Diana Chávez, plans on delivering campaign materials to voters in New York and New Jersey during a personal trip to the U.S. in December.
Two candidates, Araya and José María Villalta, of the Broad Front Party, are in a close Facebook race with more than 98,000 fans each. But only 119 people like the Facebook page “Voto en el extranjero con Johnny” (“Vote from abroad with Johnny”).
María Flores, press coordinator for the Broad Front Party, said that Villata’s campaign team has not yet prepared a specific message for voters living abroad due to a shortage of funding.
“I am glued to Facebook, Twitter and online radio in order to stay informed about the candidates,” said Esmit Pérez, a Costa Rican engineer who works for Hewlett Packard in Austin, Texas. Pérez also is part of a Facebook group that will organize carpooling from Austin to Houston on Election Day.
“It is very important for me to vote from abroad since Costa Rica is my homeland and my loved ones still live there,” said Daniela Pardo, a Costa Rican interactive software designer based in Austin, Texas. On election eve, Pardo said she will drive to Houston because the consulate is four hours away from her home.
Here’s one way voters are staying connected from abroad: