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Butler woman votes in 1st U.S. election since becoming a citizen

‘I’m trying to give the best of me to this country’
On Tuesday, April 23, Paulina Wiest, of Butler, was able to vote for the first time in a U.S. election after becoming a citizen of the United States in 2023. Submitted Photo

After waiting for nearly a decade, Butler resident Paulina Wiest was finally able to participate in an American tradition she has been longing for since moving from Mexico in 2016.

Casting a ballot in a U.S. election.

“I think it was one of the biggest things I ever did once I got my citizenship,” said Wiest. “There’s a lot of things you can do when you become a citizen, but for me, voting was No. 1.”

Originally from Mexico, Wiest obtained her citizenship last year, and on Tuesday, April 23, she exercised her civic duty by voting in the primary election.

Wiest said the journey to citizenship was not always simple, or cheap, but her determination allowed her to be part of the democratic process.

“I’m trying to give the best of me to this country,” Wiest said.

Living as a permanent resident for several years, Wiest said she was passionate about becoming a citizen because she wanted her voice to be heard.

“It’s a big deal,” Wiest said. “You see everyone voting, and I’m living here, paying taxes and doing the stuff that everybody does, but I didn’t have the voice to say what I want or what I don’t like.”

Wiest, who lived in Sinaloa, Mexico, said she wanted to move to the United States to work on her English. After turning 19, she was able to find work as a nanny through a company called Au Pair International.

“It was kind of like Tinder for nannies,” Wiest said. “You have to work so many hours taking care of kids before you can apply to the program, and then you get to choose a family. Once you like a family that chooses you, you move in with them and live anywhere from six months to a year at a time with them.”

Within a few years of moving to Butler, Wiest was able to become a “permanent resident,” which allows non-U.S. citizens to be recognized as a legal residents. The process of gaining permanent residency, according to Wiest, was harder than becoming a citizen.

“It’s a lot of paperwork,” she said. “It’s also pretty pricey; the paperwork can cost a lot of money.”

In October 2022, Wiest was finally able to take her citizenship test. Even though she spent “a lot of time studying,” Wiest said she couldn’t help but feel nervous about the exam.

“I was afraid because I know how hard it is to get in,” she said.

Wiest said she spent a lot of time learning history and what it means to be an American.

“I didn’t want to be ignorant,” she said. “I wanted to be a good citizen.”

Wiest, who also works as a poll worker for her local precinct, said she felt election days truly illuminate what it is to be an American.

“It’s about freedom of speech,” she said. “It’s about being able to vote for whoever you want.”

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