WILMINGTON — First-time voter Paul Martin has waited eight years for this American privilege, and he isn’t taking it lightly. He took advantage of early voting recently at the Clinton County Board of Elections, because he thinks he might be too busy with his poll worker duties on Election Day, Nov. 8.
Martin officially became a U.S. citizen on June 24 and he registered to vote locally on June 28. He’s a British expatriate who has resided in Wilmington since marrying his wife, Mary, in October 2008.
“I remember accompanying Mary to the polls in November 2008, thinking I was missing out on the opportunity – I felt left out,” Martin recalls. “Plus, I’m paying taxes with no say in leadership.”
With 2016 being a “big election,” Martin decided earlier this year that he wanted to have a vote and be a part of the selection process, but he had to become a U.S. citizen first.
“Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is something I had planned to do at some point,” he said. “This year’s presidential election is important enough to me that I started the process in March. My prayer was that the process would be swift and that I would be able to vote in November. I was thrilled when it all came together!”
Explaining the process, Martin, who had obtained his Green Card in 2009, said he submitted his citizenship application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with his $695 check. A few weeks later, he received a letter notifying him of an appointment at the John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati for biometrics (fingerprinting and photos). On this visit, Martin was given a booklet with 100 American government and history questions and answers that he would need to memorize for a verbal test at an upcoming interview.
“(The booklet) included an audio CD with the same questions and answers. I played that CD daily on my drive to and from work in Centerville,” Martin recounts.
His next communication from the USCIS notified him of his interview time on June 2. “I was a bit nervous,” Martin recalls as he sat in the waiting area with others to be called beyond a door leading to an area of cubicles. Once his name was called, Martin followed the interviewer to her office area and sat down.
“It was a pleasant atmosphere and my nervousness subsided when the interview began. You have to answer a minimum of six out of 10 questions to pass,” Martin explained. “I answered the first six correctly, so she didn’t bother with the other four.”
About a week following his interview, Martin said he received a letter alerting him to the date and time of the naturalization ceremony at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati.
“That was a momentous day in my life,” he said. “It rates second to the day I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church. The feeling is hard to put into words.
“America is now my home. I have come to love this country and am proud to say I am an American. Becoming a U.S. citizen has helped to solidify this feeling.
“And now I can vote in every election!” He adds, “It makes me feel that I truly belong and it’s a great privilege.”
Explaining why he decided to jump right into working at the voting polls, Martin said, “Mary alerted me to the article in the News Journal about the need for poll workers. I believe being a poll worker will allow me to see first-hand the voting process and it will also give me a chance to feel a part of the day. I’m really looking forward to the experience.”
Martin said he regularly voted in elections during his years in England.
“Compared to the United Kingdom, elections are pretty similar,” said Martin. “Although in a general election you only vote for your MP, you are given your ballot sheet, stand in a private cubicle, just like here and mark a check or cross next to your choice,“I’m not sure if things have changed since I left in 2008, but the count was completed by hand. There was always a race to see which district would announce their local result first. They would use bank tellers for the counting,” he related.
When asked about the controversial Brexit vote results from June, Martin said, “I really don’t have a strong opinion, although if I still lived in the United Kingdom I probably would have voted to stay in the EU, but cannot be certain.”
He shared a humorous exchange he had with the coordinator of the naturalization ceremony, which was the same day the Brexit results were announced. While waiting in the hallway outside the courtroom, the woman asked Martin what he thought about the results.
“I just know, not only did they lose the EU, they lost me too,” referring to his becoming a U.S. citizen. “She got a laugh from that,” Martin added.
Asked if there is anything about his former homeland he longs for, Martin said, “I don’t really miss the UK. I do miss the chance to see my grandkids growing up; some foods I miss, but to be honest, I wouldn’t change anything. I love God, America, and I love my current lifestyle and couldn’t imagine a future without my wife, Mary.
Martin has two adult sons, Paul K. and wife, Emma, have two children, Ruby, 6 and Oliver, 4 and reside in Canvey, UK; Dave and wife, Hannah, who are expecting their first child, reside in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Now when I accompany Mary to the voting polls, I have a whole new feeling,” Martin said. “I don’t take for granted this privilege to vote and I’m proud to now be an American!”