Immigrants detail their journey to cast a vote in Knoxville elections

Knoxville City Council early voting is underway, and some US immigrants are detailing their journey to the polls.
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - To vote in an election in the United States you must first be a citizen. That’s the challenge for many immigrants after coming to the country.

Alessandra Ceccarelli came from Italy back in 2013, but was unable to vote until five years later. She said the process is tedious and extensive, saying, “English exams, civics and history exams that I have to pass. Of course, background checks that I must pass. Every step of the way, so there’s nothing easy about becoming a US citizen.”

The experience Ceccarelli had is not an uncommon one. Zawadi Nyandinda came to the United States from the Congo, where she never cast a vote. In the midst of a Knoxville City Council election, she now finds herself in a voting booth casting her ballot.

Although there won’t be a Presidential election this year, for Nyandinda these local races are just as important. “City council these are local elections that affect our life every day”, said Nyandinda. Because of that, she feels it’s important to have your voice heard at the polls, and encourages other immigrants to do the same.

Organizers with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refuge Rights Coalition said that once citizenship is granted it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months to get registered to vote for some immigrants.

Early voting for the Knoxville City Council race is underway, and will close on October 28th. Election day is November 2nd.

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