MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
This week, 39,000 people became American citizens. Nearly 2,000 of them swore allegiance to the U.S. in Tucson. That's nearly three times more than a number of people that took the oath at the last citizenship ceremony there earlier this summer. NPR's Ted Robbins went to find out why.
Unidentified Woman: To whom of which.
Unidentified Men and Women: To whom of which.
BLOCK: I here support.
BLOCK: I here support.
TED ROBBINS: These are the voices of some of the people who came to the Tucson Convention Center from 40 countries. At the moment, they recited the oath that made them U.S. citizens.
Men and Women: The laws of the United States of America.
Woman: Against all enemies.
Men and Women: Against all enemies.
ROBBINS: Some have been legal residents just over the five year minimum to apply for citizenship. Some have been here for decades.
Woman: So help me God.
Men and Women: So help me God.
ROBBINS: But they all decided to make it official today.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
ROBBINS: So in a completely unscientific sample, I asked a couple of dozen new U.S. citizens, why now? And I got remarkably similar answers.
OSCAR RODRIGUEZ: My name is Oscar Rodriguez. I come from Mexico. I like vote.
ROBBINS: You want to vote?
RODRIGUEZ: I want to vote, yeah.
ALLISON ROBERTS: My name is Allison Roberts, and I'm from Wales in Britain, originally. I realize the importance of begin able to vote.
EDNA SANDOVAL: My name is Edna Sandoval. I'm from Nogales, Mexico. I could've become a U.S. citizen about 15 years ago, but I guess it's an election year, and it's very important for me.
ANN RODRIGUEZ: If you want to vote in this presidential election, you must register today.
ROBBINS: That last voice was F. Ann Rodriguez. She is the Pima County recorder, responsible for registering voters. She had county workers registering the new citizens in a room next to the ceremony. The deadline to register for the November election is less than two weeks away, and early voting begins next week.
RODRIGUEZ: Democratic, Republican, or others.
ROBBINS: Arizona has more Republicans than Democrats, but the gap is narrowing. In the most recent reporting period, Democrats registered 6,000 more new voters than Republicans. But the largest gain was among Independents. The message here was non-partisan. Just vote, the signs said. And more than 1,000 new citizens registered at the event, including Wilma Valero, a new U.S. citizen from Mexico.
WILMA VALERO: It's not so much because it's only my vote, but this is, for me, is very important because sometimes one vote is difference.
ROBBINS: Census bureau figures actually show in the last election about 10 percent fewer naturalized citizen voted compared with native born citizen. That figure may seem counterintuitive based on the enthusiasm here. So candidates up and down the ballot might want to get all these new voters while they're excited. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
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