New American Takes Patriotic Pride In Voting

This election marks a special moment for one Gulfport man.

Mercedes Carranza became a naturalized citizen of the United States just two months ago.  Tuesday's vote was his first opportunity to participate at the polls.

"Lot of people coming in here," said the nervous 31 year old as he waited in line to vote for the first time.

Carranza and his wife Sarah joined a long line of voters at the North Belaire precinct. You couldn't tell he was a bit more nervous than the others.

"This is a voter registration," he said, while pointing to his brand new card.

The native of Mexico clutched that new voter card while slowly shuffling his way to the front. Just weeks ago, he beamed with patriotic pride at his naturalization ceremony.

"And here I am two months later. My first election and I think it's great. I think we should all come out and vote," he explained.

His wife's smile was just as big.

"I'm very happy about it. It took a long time to get here but I'm very happy," said Sarah Carranza.

Twenty minutes after joining the line, he was called to exercise this newfound freedom.

As he went through the process of signing in,  the significance of citizenship lessons became reality.

"My kids are growing up here. And I want a good future for them, so leadership, good leadership in this country means a lot to me," he said.

This is a great nation. We don't have thousands of years of history. But we have the greatest country in the world. And I think it's very important to vote.

The new American who only recently received his citizenship papers... was all smiles as he accepted a much smaller, but significant piece of paper: the "I voted" sticker.

"I made mine count today for the first time. I'm excited. Very emotional. It's done. And we're going to be back and do it again," he said.