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Debates about citizenship and naturalization have had a great impact (effect) on society, government, and the political process. Citizenship is still sometimes a controversial topic. At times, Americans have disagreed about who should be granted citizenship by naturalization and about how difficult the process should be to gain citizenship. Some people question how long an immigrant should be allowed to live in the U.S. without applying for citizenship. Political parties have discussed these questions about naturalization in their party platforms, and candidates’ views about naturalization influence how voters feel about naturalization and the importance of U.S. citizenship. As more immigrants naturalize and become involved in the political process, they also influence the debate by voting, running for office, being selected for public office, and participating in lawmaking. For example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was changed in 1975 to require that election ballots be printed in all of the languages in a county where at least 5% of the citizens living in that county speak that language. In other words, if 5% of the citizens living in Orange County, Florida, speak Spanish, then all of the election ballots must be printed in both Spanish and English. This requirement makes it easier for naturalized citizens from Latin America to vote because every item on the ballot is printed in Spanish. Since the Voting Rights Act was changed in 1975, more naturalized U.S. citizens from Latin America vote in elections. Also, candidates are more likely to include Spanish language commercials and posters in their campaigns to show that they are reaching out to naturalized citizens.
Florida elected its first Cuban-American U.S. Senator in 2004 (Mel Martinez). Two brothers, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, represented Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives for several years. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart was born in Florida (citizen by law of soil), while Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart was born in Cuba and became a naturalized citizen.