House Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, D-New York, and Congressman Brendan F. Boyle, D-Pennsylvania, introduced legislation July 5, to require that all newly sworn-in U.S. citizens be provided voter registration forms at naturalization ceremonies so that they can more easily begin to exercise their right to vote.
Currently, only some states and local election officials provide such materials to newly sworn-in citizens. Crowley’s Citizenship Empowerment Act (H.R. 3113) would require officials to provide voter registration forms in citizenship packets and would allow election officials to set up informational tables outside naturalization ceremonies.
The Congressmen used the occasion of Independence Day July 4, to introduce the resolution, as a way to honor new immigrants.
Crowley represents one of the most diverse districts in the country. Stretching from Pelham Bay to Corona, New York’s 14th Congressional District includes some of the nation’s largest concentrations of Indian-American, Korean, and Colombian communities. The diverse and vibrant spirit of the 14th District plays an important role in my approach to Congress, as I strive to promote and strengthen the opportunities for Americans from all walks of life.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, 15,000 individuals were naturalized on July 4th this year around the country. “July Fourth marks the birth of our country, and for 15,000 people, it marks the birth of a new chapter as American citizens,” USCIS Acting Director James McCament said when the plan was announced the immigration agency June 29. “These new members of our community will add to the diverse fabric of our nation and will now be able to enjoy the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.”
“We should do everything within our power to make it easier for Americans to vote, as that is the fundamental tool for ensuring a more perfect union,” Rep. Crowley is quoted saying in a press release. “Newly sworn-in Americans have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to our country, and they are often eager to make their voices heard,” he added and urged fellow lawmakers to be inspired by the Independence Day Holiday to support this legislation.
Congressman Boyle echoed similar sentiments, adding that the first step of a truly representative democracy is participation.
The U.S. has a notoriously low voter participation rate and this may spur more citizens to vote come election time.
The legislation is endorsed by advocacy organizations, Common Cause and the National Partnership for New Americans.
“Many immigrants to the United States fought and died for the right to vote,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause is quoted saying. “Ensuring that new American citizens can fully participate in our democracy is a common-sense reform, and Common Cause comm …,” Scherb added commending the two Democratic lawmakers.
Providing new citizens with voter registration forms at their naturalization ceremonies is allowed but not required by federal law.