Written by Regan O’Brian
Voting is a fundamental right guaranteed in the United States Constitution, and with the assistance of legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, voter equality and protections have substantially evolved and expanded throughout American history. As a result of these movements, most American citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to vote in local, state, and federal elections today.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 7.2 million people naturalized and became U.S. Citizens within the last decade. Thus, there are millions of newly naturalized citizens who are eligible to register and vote in all U.S. elections. This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly by the newer members of our society.
Why Is This Important?
Voting is the most direct way to have your voice heard in policy and politics. Participation in local, state, and federal elections is essential freedom of American democracy, one which is unfortunately not guaranteed in all other countries. Many immigrants come from such countries. For some immigrants who have naturalized, therefore, voting is a great joy as they may never have had the opportunity to do so before.
Sometimes it seems that one vote does not have an impact on the outcome of an election, however, this is a common misconception. It is important for immigrants to vote for officials at all levels who will best represent their interests, culture, and ideals as a way to bring in new viewpoints to American policy and politics. This is especially important as it relates to controversial issues that are of major concern in society today.
Due to the Electoral College system in the United States, the popular vote does not directly elect the president. However, each individual vote still matters when it comes to electoral results. This is because the majority of states have a “winner take all” system in which the popular vote within a state determines the winner of that state’s electoral votes. This direct relationship was reinforced this year when the Supreme Court held in a 9-0 decision that States can punish members of the Electoral College if they do not lend their vote to the winner of the State’s popular vote. In previous elections, including the 2016 election, electors could theoretically vote for whomever they chose; now, this decision implements more structure and accountability to the presidential Electors, even though the Electoral College itself remains controversial. Because of this decision, the popular vote is even more important than ever.
On June 19, 2020, a member of our Cleveland office, Ms. Haydee Murillo, completed the naturalization process while remaining socially distant during an Oath Ceremony in the Cleveland Federal Building. Ms. Murillo said that before she immigrated to the U.S. in 2015, she did not miss a single election in her native country of the Philippines. She continued on to state that she plans on fully participating in all the upcoming U.S. elections. She explained, “it is important to get out and vote in this upcoming election because voting is a direct action of exercising your newfound rights” and emphasized that “your opinion will be counted through your votes.”
Each State in the U.S. has the power to set their own voter registration guidelines and deadlines. To register to vote, please visit the website of your State of residence to learn more about their specific voter registration process.
Remember to vote this Election Day on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
Requirements and Process of Naturalization
There are a number of requirements that must be met in order for a lawful permanent resident (LPR) to apply for citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to the INA, an applicant must: be at least 18 years of age, have resided in the U.S. as an LPR for at least 5 years, have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months, be a person of good moral character, be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language, have knowledge of U.S. government and history, demonstrate attachment to the principles of the Constitution and well disposition to the good order and happiness of the U.S. and be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.
If you are a potential applicant for naturalization who meets these requirements, the next step would be to file an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). Please feel free to reach out to our firm if you feel that you meet these requirements and would like assistance in filing for Citizenship.
Sources: USCIS; CNN; Fox News; Mass Vote; Polling Place Photo Project