On Aug. 8, Deisi Gonzalez raised her hand, took an oath and fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Then she registered to vote - making her the immediate target of mailers, television and radio ads and phone calls in one of the key battleground states for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
The 26-year-old from Guatemala sifted through the information and pitches - stuff that used to be just noise to her as a green card holder who could never participate in elections. It seemed far removed to the mother to two.
But last week, she made a decision and went to the local grocery store to participate in Nevada’s early voting process.
She was one of more than 111,000 in Washoe County that voted early and more than 619,000 that did statewide. In addition, more than 82,000 cast absentee ballots statewide and more than 17,000 in Washoe County.
“It felt good,” she said. “No, it felt great. I thought it would be difficult, but it wasn’t. I really felt like a part of the country.”
Gonzalez, who was featured in a story The Salt Lake Tribune did about the Latino vote in the swing county of Washoe, has had a rough few years. She’s living in a Reno home that she’s been trying to get a loan modification on and is so underwater, it’s not eligible for a short sale.
She works full time at a party rental shop in neighboring Sparks and said living in the house on the brink of foreclosure has been stressful. Becoming a U.S. citizen, she said, gave her more optimism. Voting helped her seal in that optimism because she felt she had a voice in saying what direction the country should move in.
It also excited her 11-year-old daughter.
“She asked how it felt after I did it,” Gonzalez said. “I took pictures of my voting sticker and posted them on Facebook. My co-workers were excited for me, too.”
And who did Gonzalez eventually settle on when she cast her ballot?
“I know Obama has helped Latinos and I wanted to keep that going,” she said.
She’s in line with many Latinos, who, according to the latest Latino Decisions national poll that showed Obama leading among Hispanic voters 72.9 percent to 27.1 percent.