Nothing about being an immigrant is easy, says Michelle Bobadilla, and voting is no exception.
Bobadilla was born and raised in Brazil. After coming to the United States during college and meeting her now husband, she decided to move to the country permanently after college. In 2017, she became a U.S. citizen and actually made a career out of the voting process and is now the Deputy Director of the Forsyth County Board of Elections.
"I don't think that we get a lot of very specific information once you get naturalized about voting," says Bobadilla. "They give you a packet, right? And there is a voter registration application in our packet, but it's not something that's thoroughly discussed when you get naturalized."
She says that many don’t even know where to begin.
As a new voter, there are a couple of dates and requirements to keep in mind.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt says the first date to remember is October 14, 2022.
"If you are not registered to vote, that deadline is 25 days prior to the election. And that's really any election in North Carolina, we have to make sure that you are registered by the 25th day prior to the election," says Collicutt.
After that date, you can only do same-day registration during one-stop early voting, which runs October 20, 2022, through November 5, 2022.
How do you register?
First, you need either a North Carolina driver’s license, a state ID, or you must provide the last four digits of your social security number. You need to be a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years old, and you have to show proof of residence — a utility bill, bank statement, or other government documents.
Right now, if you’ve been convicted of a felony but are not in jail, you can register thanks to a recent North Carolina Superior Court decision.
You can register and change your address and party affiliation online through the DMV's website.
In the event you don’t have an ID when you register, you must provide physical identification to vote. Forsyth County Director of Elections Tim Tsujii says that if you don’t have that in hand, there’s also the option of a provisional ballot.
"If there's a question about your registration, we can offer you a provisional ballot that you can cast," says Tsujii. "And then immediately after Election Day between the 10-day canvas period, the Board of Elections can conduct research and go through the verification process to determine whether that provisional ballot should count or not."
Collicutt says that once you’re registered, it’s an easy process.
"You’re going to check in, you’re going to tell that precinct official what's your name and where you live — they’ll give you some paperwork, you'll sign that, you’re going to get a ballot — the correct ballot for you based on your address. You get a pen, you're gonna bubble in your ballot, and take that ballot and insert it into our ballot scanning system. And then you're done."
And of course, don’t forget, Election Day is November 8, 2022.
What resources are available for those who don’t speak English as a first language?
"A lot of our instructions are in Spanish that we can give that voter to hold and take with them through the process," says Collicutt.
Tsujii says there are also resources available in Forsyth County.
"Here in Forsyth County, we do offer Spanish speaking services, whether through our written literature, and we also have translators on standby that could assist if in the event that's needed," says Tsujii.
The North Carolina Board of Elections website has the contact information and address of your county Board of Elections. For more information on tools and documents you might need, the State Board of Elections also has a dedicated page with all forms available in Spanish.
But Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Partnership for New Americans Thaís Carrero says that’s not enough, and urges the local Board of Elections to make the process easier for new voters by also specifically targeting immigrant communities.
"We want to make sure that Boards of Elections in cities and counties are putting information out there that is not only available in multiple languages, but also take into consideration the realities of the communities in the way that they communicate with with each other, and in the mediums that we use to communicate with each other," says Carrero.
She also emphasizes the importance of voting as a new American.
"Once you become a citizen, you have a civic duty and the privilege of voting to put whoever you want in the positions of power," Carrero says. "Whoever's going to represent your best interest, whoever is going to determine what's going to happen with your schools, with your hospitals, with your roads."
She says the National Partnership For New Americans is advocating the importance for new citizens to vote, and that the organization expects 100,000 new citizens will vote this year in North Carolina, enough to possibly sway the outcome of the election.
This story was produced by a partnership between WFDD and La Noticia. You can read this story in Spanish at La Noticia.
Eileen Rodriguez is a reporter for both WFDD and La Noticia through Report for America, where she covers COVID-19's impact on Latino Communities.
Periodista de La Noticia y 88.5 WFDD, Eileen Rodríguez reporta el impacto de COVID-19 en la comunidad Latina en Carolina del Norte. Rodríguez es miembro del cuerpo de periodistas de Report for America 2021-2022