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Rock the (Naturalized) Vote!

October 1, 2012


Rock the (Naturalized) Vote Report: New American Voters May Impact Close Elections

New report releases never-before-seen data of naturalized citizens and their potential for voter registration

A new report released recently highlights the potential impact that recently naturalized immigrants may have in local and national elections, especially in swing states.

The University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) launched the report, Rock the (Naturalized) Vote, along with an interactive, online mapping tool that identifies the share of recently naturalized immigrants in the voting-age citizen population across the U.S. 

Both tools illustrate the potential importance of this vote and will help groups like the National Partnership for New Americans and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) identify areas of the country where New Americans are registering to vote and getting engaged. CSII’s maps show that the most important gap in electoral participation by naturalized citizens comes at the point of registration rather than voting and that, once registered, New Americans vote at rates nearly identical to those of native born Americans.

"The National Partnership for New Americans has assisted over 9,000 immigrants to our nation apply for U.S. citizenship this year, and we have registered tens of thousands of naturalized immigrants to vote,” said Joshua Hoyt, Co-chair of the Partnership and Chief Strategy Executive of ICIRR. “The Center has created powerful maps that illustrate how immigrants who are Americans by choice are changing the electoral map of our country.”

Newly naturalized citizens of voting age are approximately 3.6 percent of the voting-age citizen population which represents more than the margin of victory in many recent local and national elections. Indeed, significant numbers of New Americans are located in many swing states, such as Florida, where 6 percent of the voting age citizen population now consists of recently naturalized immigrants. In the tightly contested 2012 Presidential election, New Americans could be critical.

The online mapping tool launches just prior to voter registration deadlines in many states. Given that one important gap in electoral participation comes as a result of limited registration by New Americans, the data could help target some last-minute efforts. More generally, the data help illustrate the potential importance of the immigrant vote and the report that accompanies it suggests how immigration, while not the dominant issue, can often be a key concern for these voters. 

“We hope that the data inspires a more civil, balanced and solutions-oriented conversation about immigration—one in which realistic solutions are proposed and agreed upon so that voters can concentrate on other issues such as the economy,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. The online mapping tool provides users with detailed explanation of the geographic location, country-of-origin, and race/ethnicity of the naturalized voting-age population at a level not previously seen.

Organizers across the nation are using these maps to target last minute registration efforts to register and mobilize new citizen voters.

And explaining the political importance of this analysis, particularly given the recent presidential debates, CSII Director Manuel Pastor’s opinion piece “New Americans, New Voters, New Politics” reminds readers that with a race that has just tightened, every vote matters more than ever. And what’s more, in key swing states and key areas (like northern Virginian suburbs), these new voters could be enough to tip the election in one way or the other for the nation.

For what this means for both candidates moving forward, read Pastor’s blog and visit our interactive maps to see the potential effect of newly naturalized immigrants in your community.

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