More on the Election Year Backlog

NBC news story

Naturalizations Backlog Could Keep Thousands of Immigrants From Voting


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Highlights below:

Over half a million immigrants, whose naturalization applications were filed months ago, are starting to make peace with the fact that, due to a backlog in processing applications, they may not be able to cast their first vote as American citizens in November.

The tense political climate has thrown immigration issues into the national spotlight again and a recent application fee increase has motivated thousands of U.S. residents to apply for their citizenship to vote this year. But a swell in state level applications at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has led to backlogs that will prevent many from casting their vote.

At the end of June 2016, 524,014 naturalization applications were reported under review across all 50 states according to the USCIS. Though the number does not represent the exact number of applications in the backlog, a review of the pending cases by state from this period to the third quarter of fiscal year 2015 does show a 31.2 percent growth in pending applications. 

USCIS spokesperson Jim McKinney says that the agency is on track to meet its goal of processing applications between five to seven months. He acknowledges that the agency has "experienced a significant increase in applications and petitions across the board" and attributes the discrepancy in processing times to geography and capacity in states. The agency has experienced similar backlogs for at least the past three presidential election cycles, NBC News found.

Tara Raghuveer, deputy director of National Partnership for New Americans, said that the concurrent swell of backlogs during presidential election years are an example of corrosion in American democracy. "Unfortunately we're going to see people disenfranchised in states that are critically significant in this election. To express frustration about that is an understatement and it's completely inexcusable that these backlogs exist, period," she said.