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Follow Wyoming Public Radio as we cover the Equality State and U.S. elections online and on-air.

Jackson Citizen Worried State Hindering Voters

Brett Neilson

Jackson resident says a state system that flags voters as potential non-citizens may be intimidating some U.S. citizens, who have the legal right to vote.

Jackson's Gina Valencia became a U.S. citizen in 2010. That November she registered to vote in her first U.S. election and then voted in five elections. The Wyoming Department of Transportation has a copy of her U.S. passport on file as proof of her citizenship.

But this year, she received a letter from the Teton County Clerk saying she had been flagged by the state as a "potential non-citizen."

Valencia's husband, who was born in the U.S., was upset by the letter and contacted the County Clerk's office to say a mistake had been made. But Valencia said he was told she'd still have to bring in proof.

"The letter upset me so much it was on our fridge for, I don't know, maybe more than eight weeks. And I was really upset, I didn't want to deal with it. Time passed and the primary elections happened in August. And I had not dealt with it, and I did not vote," Valencia said.

Now Valencia says she regrets not voting and is reaching out to the Wyoming Secretary of State to see how the system can be improved to protect voters' rights in the future.

"I have done everything by the book, and my record will show that," Valencia said. "I provided the information. And despite the facts, that you know that people could look in my records and see that I have proven to be a U.S. citizen, to be questioned about it and to have my name flagged that was the thing that was upsetting." 

A multi-media journalist, Rebecca Huntington is a regular contributor to Wyoming Public Radio. She has reported on a variety of topics ranging from the National Parks, wildlife, environment, health care, education and business. She recently co-wrote the one-hour, high-definition documentary, The Stagecoach Bar: An American Crossroads, which premiered in 2012. She also works at another hub for community interactions, the Teton County Library where she is a Communications and Digital Media Specialist. She reported for daily and weekly newspapers in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming for more than a decade before becoming a multi-media journalist. She completed a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in 2002. She has written and produced video news stories for the PBS series This American Land (thisamericanland.org) and for Assignment Earth, broadcast on Yahoo! News and NBC affiliates. In 2009, she traveled to Guatemala to produce a series of videos on sustainable agriculture, tourism and forestry and to Peru to report on the impacts of extractive industries on local communities.

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