A Day to Remember: Jean-Marie Kponou Casts His First-Ever Ballot

Picking-up-a-ballot
Jean-Marie Kponou checks in with election workers Lois Chase, Gloria Moll and Marion Connarton to pick up his ballot – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved

By Julie McCay Turner

Watching his first-ever ballot slide into the
Kponou watching his first-ever vote slide into the ballot box – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved

Bedford resident Jean-Marie Kponou’s vote was cast early this morning. It was a very special vote, and a long time coming: It is the first – and so-far the only — vote he has ever cast. “I voted!” he said later. “I’m an American, with all the same rights and opportunities. It’s good!”

Kponou and his wife Adjo left Togo, a small nation in West Africa and sought political asylum in Benin more than 20 years ago. After 14 years in Benin, they were selected to come to the United States under the sponsorship of the International Institute of New England in Lowell. According to family friend and mentor Holly Bloomfield, “Since Jean-Marie arrived in Bedford in 2009, he has wanted to become a U.S citizen, but it takes five years before you can even apply!

“Once he was eligible to apply for citizenship, he has looked forward to voting,” Bloomfield continued, “Citizenship is an arduous process involving a long application, a rigorous background check and significant application fees. After several months, Jean-Marie was invited to take the oral interview, a written English test, and he also had to pass a civics test. (Check the links at the end of this article to learn more about the tests .) Having prepared so carefully, he passed on his first try!”

Kponou became a U.S. citizen in 2015, whereupon he immediately applied for a passport and registered to vote. “To prepare for his first vote, Jean-Marie asked a lot of questions about the candidates and the election process,” noted Bloomfield. “He chose a party and viewed the ballot in advance online. Arriving at the polling location, he figured out his precinct, checked in and was then led to the voting booth. He completed his first vote by 7:15 am, before heading off to work.”

Kponou is very happy to live in Bedford where his family has found the community to be kind and supportive. He is especially thankful to Bloomfield, to St. Paul’s Church, and the Bedford Public Schools.  “The Bedford schools are the best,” he says.  The family appreciates the many opportunities their children would not have had in Africa.

This is a great year to begin voting. Bedford’s annual town election is coming up on Saturday, March 12; the Massachusetts state primary will take place on Thursday, September 8; and then Presidential election comes along on Tuesday, November 8.

To learn more about US Citizenship exams:

 

After casting his first-ever vote, Jean-Marie Kponou posted with his son Joseph and his friend and mentor Holly Bloomfield - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved
After casting his first-ever vote, Jean-Marie Kponou posed with his son Joseph and his friend and mentor Holly Bloomfield – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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Caroline
Caroline
6 years ago

What a week for Jean-Marie! Monday was his leap year birthday!

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