In their own words, new U.S. citizens look to voting in 2024

From left to right: Brayan Vazquez, Karen Perez and Adam Modzelewski recently became U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Phoenix. PHOENIX — It was a very proud moment for Nilesh Patel. “It’s the happiest day of my life,” he said, walking out of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix earlier this month. Patel, who emigrated from India nearly a decade ago, had just finished participating in a naturalization ceremony — officially making him an American citizen. And after the ceremony, down the hall from the courtroom, he was able to register to vote. “[The] U.S. has given a lot to us,” said Patel’s wife, Hatel Patel, who is already a citizen. “I’ve been serving back, now he will get more chances as well.” And serving back, she says, means voting. New Arizona voters like Nilesh Patel are registering in a state that next year has key congressional races and could play a crucial role in the presidential election . And many new voters see their eligibility to participate in elections as an impactful and exciting responsibility. Nilesh Patel and his wife Hatel Patel stand for a portrait outside the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix after a naturalization ceremony on Dec. 15. “One of our greatest rights, especially for new citizens, is the power to vote,” said Jeanette Senecal with the nonprofit League of Women Voters, which has reported registering nearly 48,000 new citizens to vote this year at naturalization ceremonies around the country. In fiscal year 2022, nearly 1 million Americans became naturalized citizens, according to federal data — the highest level in 15 years . “We want to see every eligible voter registered and turning out to vote,” Senecal said, adding, “It is really important to invite new voices in to ensure we […]

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