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‘I worked so hard’: KSAT producer shares first-time voting experience after becoming US citizen

Producer Oriana Cervantez navigated immigration process for 9 years

SAN ANTONIO – Last summer, when I became a United States citizen, I was most excited about being able to vote. This week, I finally got to do it.

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where I lived for the first 14 years of my life. My parents and I moved to Texas in July 2010, after my dad’s employer offered him a position in Fort Worth.

After 9 years of going through the different steps of the immigration process, I finally became a U.S. citizen on June 13, 2019. My parents’ citizenship process took a little bit longer, but they were naturalized a few months later.

At my naturalization ceremony, I was asked if I wanted to register to vote. My answer: a very enthusiastic “heck yes!”

For the past few weeks I’ve been preparing to cast my first vote. I probably checked the Bexar County website at least five times to make sure I was registered and there were no issues.

Once I looked at the sample ballot for my district, I was incredibly overwhelmed. There were so many races I didn’t even know about, and so many names I didn’t recognize. I decided it was time to sit down and do my homework.

What you need to know about voting in the Texas Primary Elections on March 3

For several days I dedicated some time going through each race, researching every candidate and deciding who deserved my support. I wrote down all the names and studied them so that when I got to the voting booth, I wouldn’t forget.

On Tuesday, when I got off work, I headed to my nearest polling site, ready to exercise my right as an American. I felt a little nervous because I didn’t want to mess it up.

When I got there, though, it was so easy! There was no line and I was in and out in about 5 minutes.

The busiest, slowest Bexar County polling locations during early voting

After, I felt so excited! I worked so hard and waited so long to have the opportunity to participate in democracy and finally getting to do it was unreal.

This isn’t a unique experience for me. In fact, a record number of naturalized citizens will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, more than 23 million immigrants will be able to vote, making up nearly 10% of the overall electorate.

That number increased by 93% over the past 20 years. In 2000, immigrants made up about 6% of the overall electorate, the report shows.

For me, voting is not just a right. It’s a responsibility. That’s why it was so important to me to do my research and make an informed decision before casting my vote. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I think everyone should take the time to do the same.

A lot of people seem to take voting for granted. Before I naturalized, it used to drive me crazy when people didn’t vote. Now that I’m a citizen, I’m going to make sure I do it every single time, no matter how small the race is.


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