Jul 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Newly naturalized citizens could sway elections in key states

New U.S. citizens wave American flags during a naturalization ceremony. Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The number of immigrants who became U.S. citizens in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida between fiscal years 2016 and 2020 is greater than the 2020 presidential margin of victory in each of those states, according to a new report by the National Partnership for New Americans and the Service Employees International Union.

Why it matters: The growing demographic of naturalized citizens has the potential to become an election-deciding voting bloc — especially in swing states that could determine which party controls Congress this fall.

What to watch: The report, released Wednesday, notes that newly naturalized citizens are typically less likely to register and turn out to vote than U.S.-born citizens.

  • A change in that trend, however, would be significant.
  • Both parties are already wooing these new and prospective eligible voters. The Republican National Committee has launched a program to help immigrants prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test.
  • The Democratic Party has also backed grassroots groups that organize citizenship drives, many of which ramped up their efforts when former President Trump was elected.

Zoom in: The electoral impact could be greatest in Georgia, a state that turned blue in the 2020 presidential and Senate elections for the first time in decades.

  • Just over 96,000 Georgia citizens naturalized between FY 2016 and 2020, eight times the margin of President Biden's 12,000-vote victory.
  • This year, a total of 116,000 citizens newly naturalized in Georgia since FY 2016 will have the opportunity to help decide control of the U.S. Senate — which swung to Democrats in 2020 after Sen. Jon Ossoff won his runoff by a margin of about 55,000.

In Arizona, where Biden defeated Trump by just over 10,000 votes, an estimated 64,000 people naturalized between FY 2016 and 2020.

  • That includes nearly 29,000 people from Mexico alone.
  • An additional 33,000 citizens have naturalized between FY 2020 and 2022, potentially making them eligible to vote in this year's toss-up Senate and gubernatorial races.

Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida have competitive Senate races and gubernatorial elections this year as well.

  • In all three states, there were more citizens who naturalized over the five years leading up to the 2020 elections than ballots separating Biden and Trump.

By the numbers: Nationwide, 5.1 million citizens are estimated to have naturalized between FY 2016 and the 2022 midterms, including 1.4 million since FY 2020, according to the report.

Behind the numbers: The report is a part of a new 2022 campaign by the National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition of 60 immigrant and refugee rights organizations.

  • "The campaign will encourage newly naturalized citizens to register and vote by strategically targeting them, especially in states where they reside in large numbers," according to the report.
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