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10,000 New Eligible Minnesota Voters

May 23, 2008

St. Paul, MN – Some new faces will cast their ballots at polls across Minnesota this November, thanks to members of the League of Women Voters, who have been busily attending naturalization ceremonies to welcome new U.S. citizens. Peggy Kvam, a board member with the League, says her group wants to make sure new arrivals truly become part of the democratic process.

"The League has been registering new citizens at their naturalization ceremonies throughout the state since January 2007. And, we just reached our 10,000-person milestone, registering voters from over 120 countries."

The goal is to impress on these new citizens the importance of participating in a citizen-government, Kvam explains, and to explain how easy it is to get involved in the political process.

"They haven't been registered before, and they're very anxious to do it. It makes sense that one of their first acts as a citizen is to register as a voter. We have the cards ready for them at the ceremony and we help them fill them out. After the ceremony concludes, when they are new citizens, we collect the cards."

At each ceremony, League members explain how citizens choose their government representatives and can have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie supports the League's efforts, and has attended several of the ceremonies to welcome the new citizens and help them understand representative democracy.

"The whole process of coming to this country for a better life – for freedom, for liberty – is expressed through the act of registering and voting. It's what renews us, in the same way that the original immigrants have continued to renew our state and our democracy."

Minnesota also allows same-day voter registration, available for newcomers and long-timers. Ritchie says it's part of the state's effort to allow everyone who wants to vote, to do so.

Voter information is available online at www.lwvmn.org, and at www.sos.state.mn.us.

Jim Wishner/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MN