Naturalization, Citizenship, and Voter Registration

I’m sitting in the historic grand Paramount Theater in Oakland, California. Perhaps an odd place from which to return to blogging after some time, but I wanted to re-start on a personal note that’s also quite connected to the voter registration technology work that we’ve been doing over the last many months.

I’ve just witnessed a naturalization ceremony where 994 people (one of them very special to me) from 104 nations have taken an oath to become citizens of the United States of America. It’s impossible for this to sound other than trite, but it’s true: these people worked hard — some of them very hard indeed — to reach this point, while all I had to do was be born. It is so inspiring that I think everyone should witness one of these ceremonies, to really get a feeling for what it is like to choose to be an American.

And (no surprise) for me a big part of being American is voting. That’s why I was so pleased and thrilled with the amount of time in this ceremony devoted to voting rights and elections and participation. But just as gratifying to me was the presence of election officials from the San Francisco elections division, who briefed the audience in 3 languages on how they should register to vote. And the easiest option that they offered — and kudos to them for it — was to fill out the voter registration form that was already in their hands, and bring it to their table in the lobby. There, the elections division folks made sure the form was complete and correct, and took the completed forms right then and there, no mailing required, even for other counties than San Francisco. They even let me help pass out forms to people in line, in case they didn’t get one.

My personal experience was great, but also a cause for some reflection on the experience of others present in the theatre. But because this has been a great day, I’ll save those reflections, including a technology angle of course, for a better time to consider room for improvement via technology.


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