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Report: New citizens could have ‘decisive’ impact on elections

Updated August 25, 2022 - 7:07 pm

A report released Thursday shows just how influential new U.S. citizens could be in the November midterms, especially in Nevada.

The “New American Voters in Nevada” report found that 42,976 citizens were naturalized in Nevada between 2016 and 2020.

That number is larger than Nevada’s 2020 presidential election margin of 33,596 votes, showing how much of an influence the new citizens can have on the election, the report says.

“In Nevada, a bloc of New American Voters — recently naturalized citizens that have earned the right to vote — has the potential to play an outsized role in the outcomes of critical federal and state races,” the report says.

Partnering with the Asian Community Development Council, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the New American Voters 2022 campaign that published the report aims to mobilize and encourage new citizens across the country to vote.

Of the newly naturalized citizens in Nevada, 47 percent come from the Americas — such as Central and South America, the Caribbean and Canada — 38 percent come from Asia, 8 percent come from Europe and 6 percent come from Africa, according to the report.

Of the more than 40,000 people who became naturalized citizens between 2016 and 2020, 11,318 originally came from Mexico, the highest single country of origin, followed by the Philippines in Asia and Cuba in the Caribbean.

The Southern Nevada area of Las Vegas, Henderson and Paradise had the highest concentration of new naturalized citizens with 285,000, followed by the Reno area, with 34,000 people.

About 59 percent of the people who were naturalized in Nevada between 2016 and 2020 were below the age of 45, and about 59 percent were women, according to the report.

“This voting bloc is multiracial, multigenerational, geographically diverse, and majority female. New American Voters hold distinct ideologies, experiences, and viewpoints, and will be motivated by a variety of issues this November,” the report reads.

Most from Latin America

The majority of Nevada’s new citizens originate from Latin countries, and the Latino vote is expected to be influential in the 2022 midterms. Historically, Latinos in the U.S. have voted more Democratic, although recent reports show that the Republican Party is making more inroads with Latino demographics. One report, for instance, found that former President Donald Trump received more support from Latinos in 2020 than in 2016 because of his economic stances.

In Nevada’s big races, such as the U.S. Senate contest in which Republican former Attorney General Adam Laxalt is looking to defeat the first Latina in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., candidates have campaigned for the Latino vote. Laxalt, for instance, started his “Latinos for Laxalt” campaign, blaming Cortez Masto and other Democrats’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason why Hispanic businesses closed.

Cortez Masto’s campaign defended its record, saying in a statement, “Senator Cortez Masto rescued nearly 120,000 businesses during the height of the pandemic by delivering federal loans that helped them keep their doors open. Meanwhile, Adam Laxalt was rooting against them, saying their challenges were ‘good news’ for him politically.”

The statement referred to an appearance on a podcast in which Laxalt discussed the negative political impacts for Democrats of pandemic-related business closures.

Republican Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s campaign for governor has a Latino outreach coordinator as well. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has formed an advisory group of Latino voters and spent heavily on Spanish-language advertising.

A poll conducted on behalf of UnidosUs and Mi Familia Vota between July 20 and Aug 1 of 2,750 Latino eligible voters found that Nevada Latinos want elected officials to address inflation and rising cost of living, crime and gun violence, jobs and the economy, lack of affordable housing and high rents, education and public school quality, health care, abortion and climate change and the environment.

In Nevada, 44 percent of respondents identified Democrats as the best party to address those issues they cited.

Gary Segura with BSP Research, who conducted the survey, says both Republicans and Democrats have a lot of work to do to engage Hispanic voters. The survey found that 56 percent of Nevada’s Latinos said they are certain they will vote in the midterms, while 21 percent said they are likely to vote. Of those, 53 percent said they plan to vote Democrat, 23 percent said Republican and 17 percent said they are undecided.

“It’s a wake up call for both parties,” said Rafael Collazo, executive director of the UnidosUS Action Fund in a press call about the poll.

A decisive role

Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, said Nevada’s numbers are part of the 5.19 million newly naturalized people in the U.S. Out of 15 states highlighted in the report, Nevada will be one of the states where new citizens can play a decisive role in the 2022 midterms, Melaku said.

With the demographics, age and countries of origin reported, candidates can work to carve out the identities of those new citizens and learn what’s important to them, Melaku said.

“It’s a super multiethnic, multiracial electorate that I think tells the story of the changing electorate of Nevada,” Melaku said.

The National Partnership for New Americans also works to identify and eliminate barriers for people wanting to become citizens. One of the most obvious barriers, Melaku said, is access to legal services. People can get intimidated by the length of the application or concerns that they aren’t proficient enough in English to pass the test. There is also a $725 application fee, Melaku said.

There are partners in Nevada that help people free of charge with the process, Melaku said, such as the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada’s Northern Nevada Citizenship and Immigration program. Erika Castro, organizing director of PLAN, said the office in northern Nevada helps people in the entire state.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

Nevada NAV State Report Final 822 by Tony Garcia on Scribd

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