New voters are an influential voting bloc in national and local elections. A diverse sector of citizens, new voters include people who turned 18 since the last elections, adults who have never voted in the past, and newly naturalized citizens. Mohammad Ismail, 30, came to the U.S. seven years ago on a special visa for military interpreters working in Afghanistan. He told KUNM voting for the first time is a big step as a citizen and a way to grow roots in his new home country.
"My name is Mohammad Ismail. I'm from Afghanistan. I work with Albuquerque Public Schools as a refugee case manager. I support refugee students district wide, navigating the education system and accessing resources. I came here like seven years ago, on a special immigrant visa. How we got granted the visa was working with the U.S. armed forces back in Afghanistan. And I have worked three-and-a-half years as an interpreter. I was bridging the language barrier between the U.S. military to the Afghan national forces.
"Voting for the first time here, it's full of excitement. This is my new home. When I came to this country, I came from with a visa and greencard so I couldn't vote. I want to vote for our unity in this country, the big political issues that we have, obviously, immigration, health care, because my dad has conditions, and I don't want him to lose his healthcare benefits. So each time he goes to the doctor, he gets a lot of prescriptions. Obviously, the climate change and the borders are super strict. I want someone who can work on this for everyone, and who can make a real change to this country.
"I have not talked to the children or the students, but I do talk with their parents to encourage them, please go vote. It's optional. It's not mandatory here. And if you're not a citizen, please don't go vote because they don't ask you if you're a citizen at the voting centers that can get your citizenship or naturalization process in trouble. People who are eligible to vote but they do not vote in my community it's because they don't get the information in their home language because they don't speak the English.
"The election in the United States is very different than the election in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan elections are a very slow. It's only one day or two days to vote. The last election it took six months to announce the new president.
"My daughters are three-and-a-half and one-and-a-half years old. When I go to vote at the voting center they will be in back of my mind that I have to vote for them, for me, and for my entire family."