Newly naturalized citizens get ready to cast their first vote

Growing demographic could have impact on elections
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Posted at 5:17 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 18:36:43-04

CLEVELAND — In the days and weeks leading up to any election you always hear a lot about the important role undecided voters can play.

As we approach November 3, Global Cleveland is releasing new information on the potential impact newly naturalized citizens can have on national, state, and local elections.

“This is your chance to have a voice,” said Nathanie Yaskey.

Yaskey is ready to use hers as she gets ready to cast her first ballot as a naturalized citizen.

“It seems so small, it’s just a piece of paper. It’s not just a piece of paper, it’s your life ten years from now,” said Yaskey.

The 28-year old and her family secured political asylum in the 1990s to escape a civil war in Sierra Leone.

“It means everything to me,” saying Yaskey.

Her mom's former college professor put them up for two years.

“He knew about what was going on in Sierra Leone and how brutal it was. My brother would sleep on the floor, so me, my sister and my mom would share the bed,” said Yaskey.

Despite having a chance to vote in the 2016 presidential election, Yaskey sat that one out, but not this year.

“I may have been a bit complicit. This election is just different. Hearing xenophobic rhetoric really cuts me to the core," Yaskey said.

There are about 60,000 naturalized citizens like Yaskey in Ohio who could swing the outcome of the 2020 election, according to Global Cleveland.

"In a close election, anything can matter,” said Justin Buchler.

Buchler, a political science professor at Case Western, said newly naturalized citizens typically vote Democratic – with some variation among Hispanics.

"Cubans have been a little bit more likely to vote Republican,” said Buchler.

Buchler said it may be an uphill battle for Republicans to tap into this growing demographic.

“It is difficult to do with Trump on the ticket,” said Buchler.

Buchler said the GOP would need to change its stance on immigration.

"This will hurt them, yes,” said Buchler.

The National Partnership for New Americans said the potential new voters exceed​ the margin of victory for the 2016 presidential election.

“We have this incredible opportunity in Ohio together to really shape the story around this electorate and the issues that matter to them,” said Nicole Melaku, National Partnership for New Americans.

Among the top issues for Yaskey is defending the process that allowed her to become a U.S. citizen.

“I remember hearing a speech talking about how refugee asylum is a sham and how it’s just the way that people sneak into the country,” she said.

Because of what she calls ongoing rhetoric, Yaskey said immigrants may be keeping their heads down right now, but they will be heard.

“We’re silent, but we’re sure as hell going to use our vote this year,” she said.

Lisa Stickan, the Chairperson for the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, provided this statement:

“A naturalized citizen who studies hard and has the passion to go through the legal process of naturalization will also work hard to study the issues and candidates. We believe Republican policies focused on family, education, faith, and economic security resonate with the values many naturalized citizens bring from countries that do not allow the individual freedoms America offers around these issues."