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At Raleigh consulate, hundreds of Mexican citizens vote in historic election

The Consulate of Mexico in Raleigh is designated to serve Mexican citizens in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Aaron Sánchez-Guerra
The Consulate of Mexico in Raleigh is designated to serve Mexican citizens in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Nearly 700 Mexican citizens cast ballots in-person at the Consulate of Mexico in Raleigh in a historic presidential election on Sunday, according to figures from the National Electoral Institute of Mexico.

Mexicans elected Claudia Sheinbaum as the country's first female president. Sheinbaum, of the incumbent left-leaning Morena party, will succeed the popular Andrés Manuel López Obrador as the nation's leader.

It was also the first time that Mexicans were able to vote from abroad in person in 23 consulates across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

On Sunday, Mexican nationals from across the South arrived in droves for the opportunity to vote. Around a thousand people passed through the consulate in hopes of voting for a president, senators, and state governors, with lines wrapping around the Garner Road location for hours.

People reportedly waited in line more than five hours, arriving as early as 5 a.m. to cast a ballot, according to local Spanish-language outlet Qué Pasa.

There was a limit of 1,500 ballots available at consulates for voters who did not register to vote in person. Consulates followed the schedule of Mexican polling sites, which was 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Still, the polling hours weren't enough to meet the demand. A total of 692 ballots were cast in Raleigh, according to the election figures. The tally does not include votes cast online or by mail.

Hopeful voters were reportedly frustrated and confused, while others were turned away by hours-long lines caused by overwhelming crowds and electronic ballot system delays.

Officials at the consulate declined to speak on the record when visited by WUNC. Questions were deferred to the National Electoral Institute — INE in its Spanish acronym — which is charged with running federal elections.

In all, 5,755 votes were placed in person at sites across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In all, 180,676 votes were cast from abroad, including mail and online votes, according to the election agency.

The agency was taken by surprise by the lack of capacity faced by crowds at consulates and embassies abroad.

"The great turnout by people wanting to vote in consular branches surpassed our expectations," the agency said in a statement. "This circumstance will be evaluated for future voting from abroad with the purpose of strengthening the human right to vote."

Aaron Sánchez-Guerra covers issues of race, class, and communities for WUNC.