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Newest Americans sign up to vote

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 10, 2008
— Quick! How many voting members are in the U.S. House of Representatives?

No peeking.


Did you say "435"?


Salome Mitchell did. And on Saturday, she signed the last of the paperwork that will let her vote for those representatives.


Saturday morning, Mitchell registered to vote at an event geared to encourage new U.S. citizens to register. The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the YWCA, 1735 S. Washington St., Janesville.


Mitchell, a native of the Philippines, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in June.


Mitchell beamed and said she was excited to vote to choose local and federal leaders. Voter registration was the cherry on top of the long, nerve-wracking process of gaining citizenship that started in the spring of 2007.


The process starts with a $675 processing payment to the Citizenship and Immigration Services office. Then Mitchell got a book and a CD about U.S. history and government. She studied every night with her husband, Michael Mitchell.


Mitchell's fingerprints were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a background check.


The final test involves answering 10 questions about the United States and writing a simple sentence in English.


The Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site lists a good moral character, attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and a favorable disposition toward the United States as other requirements of gaining citizenship.


Mitchell listened to the CD at Mercy Assisted Care, where she has worked as a housekeeper for seven years. She made Michael quiz her every night from the list of potential questions she could have been asked at her final test.


People applying for citizenship only have to answer six of the 10 questions correctly, Mitchell said. She nailed the first six questions she was asked and was mad when the test giver stopped asking.


"I wanted more," she said. "I worked so hard."


Mitchell, 37, came to Milton, then Janesville, in 1999. It's a long way from the white sand beaches and volcanoes on Camiguin Island in the Philippines, where she lived.


But Janesville is home for Mitchell's two daughters, Danielle, 3, and Gabrielle, 8.


"Wherever they are, that's where I want to be," Mitchell said.


And talk about a small world! While chatting with League of Women Voters member and YWCA Hispanic outreach coordinator Evelyn Woodring, the women discovered they had both lived on Camiguin Island.


Woodring, a native of the Philippine island of Manila, was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in May after having started the process in June 2007. There are many advantages to having U.S. citizenship, she said, including having access to a wider variety of jobs and the ease of traveling with an American passport rather than having to apply for a visa.


"It's exciting, every step of the way," Woodring said.


ON THE WEB

The process of gaining U.S. citizenship starts with a call to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Call 1-800-375-5283 or visit www.uscis.gov.


To learn more about upcoming League of Women Voters registration events, call Lynda Olson at (608) 754-0387.



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