Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Newly naturalized citizens get called to the civic duty of voting — right away



Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Anya Sarinana of the Orange County registrar office helps newly naturalized citizens register to vote after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Teresa Maya of Mexico has been in the U.S. for 19 years. She studied for four years before attending the naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center. Her immediate family are American citizens and it was time to embrace the U.S., she said.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages were available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Newly naturalized American citizens register to vote after the ceremony at the LA Convention Center.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.
Volunteers gave about stickers to newly naturalized American citizens after they registered to vote.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC


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In a room packed with thousands of newly minted citizens waving American flags on Tuesday, Los Angeles and Orange county voting officials saw an opportunity: Signing up potential new voters just in time for the Nov. 4 general election.
 
As new citizens streamed out of two citizenship ceremonies at the L.A. Convention Center, voter registration workers from L.A. and Orange counties waved them down. Then they steered them to a workshop in a room nearby, where they could sign up to vote.
 
Antonio Martinez, an immigrant from Venezuela, said he figured he'd register to vote one of these days. He wasn’t expecting an instant call to civic duty.
 
“Someone stopped me downstairs, and they told me, if you want to register right now, I can do so," said Martinez, a real estate agent who has lived in the United States for 14 years. "So I did. That is wonderful. You can register to vote and become a citizen on the same day? That is great.”
 
L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan says his office typically has a presence at citizenship ceremonies, but that this time they kicked it up a notch, with post-ceremony voter workshops that were announced to the crowd as ceremonies were ending.
 
The goal Tuesday, he said, was to take advantage of a special right new citizens have: While everyone else had to register by Monday to cast a ballot next month, the newly naturalized are excepted. They may still register onsite at a citizenship ceremony, or at county headquarters in Norwalk.
 
"Even if it is after the cutoff for voter registration, you can still register and cast a ballot in this election," Logan said. "And what greater opportunity than to get people right at the time they become citizens, and to reinforce the importance of voting and participating in our elections."
 
Some new citizens can be hard to draw to the polls. Studies have found that while foreign-born, naturalized Latinos have higher turnout than Latinos who are native-born, the opposite is true for Asian-Americans, who face language and other barriers to participation.