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New Citizen Voters Could Impact November Elections

Kevin Meerschaert
Several pro-immigrant groups rally at the Roundhouse rotunda to encourage more new naturalized citizens to vote in November's election.

There are about 18,000 newly naturalized citizens eligible to vote in New Mexico this year, and several organizations are working to get them to the polls for the first time.

A report released Tuesday by several pro-immigrant groups says the new citizens have the potential to create a significant impact on election results in November.

The report counted the new citizens from 2016 to 2020. About 72-percent are from the Americas, mostly from Mexico, 18-percent are from Asia and the Pacific and just over half are under the age of 45.

Nicole Melaku is Executive Director of the National Partnership for New Americans.  She joined several New Mexico-based activists for a rally on Tuesday in the Roundhouse Rotunda to encourage more new citizens to register and vote.

She says it can be a challenge to get some new citizens to the polls, particularly those who aren’t used to the voting process.

“Many of our folks are of course coming from countries where that right is not an essential right and the concept of democracy, of course, is not worldwide,” she said. “To be able to help establish behaviors for an electorate is incredibly important regardless of how they vote. I think that this campaign and the work of Somos (Accion) and other folks here in New Mexico is to make sure that people can engage with the process and have the support to be able to do that.”             

The study also says 58-percent of the new naturalized citizens in New Mexico are women. 

The report also says that growing backlogs of processing citizenship applications is creating problems for those wanting to become citizens.

According to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services there are about 672-thousand pending citizenship applications nationwide.                 

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.