Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States; yet to date, neither political party has successfully won over the Asian American voting bloc. Known as the “sleeping giants” in this year’s presidential election, Asian Americans may just have the potential to turn several states from red to blue, including Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Georgia, areas where the educated workforce and immigrant populations are growing.
A coalition of Asian American / Pacific Islander organizations, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), is cultivating civic engagement and facilitating voter outreach in target areas in 25 states, reports the Washington Post. Volunteers of these nonpartisan organizations aim to increase the number of registered Asian American voters.
While many of the coalition’s volunteers have a history of political engagement, Donald Trump has provided an additional incentive for these volunteers to get out the Asian American vote. Known for his anti-immigration sentiments, Trump has struck a nerve with the Asian American community.
John Choi, a 28-year old Korean American who grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, feels that he has a personal stake in this election. “I come from a family of immigrants…When I hear language and speeches and talks about policies that are anti-immigrant, it really does make me want to vote more…it makes me want to tell all my friends and family to also vote, to counter all the anti-immigration rhetoric.”
Encouraging Asian American political participation comes with unique challenges. Christine Chen, the executive director of APIAVote explains, “Culturally, they’re coming from countries where politics are crooked, or you just don’t want to have an opinion…We’re making inroads, but there’s still a lot more work to be done…We want to shift the culture, so that way it’s normal and it’s expected you participate.”
Volunteers who can speak the native languages of these voters are uniquely able to meaningfully lower the barriers to political participation, elucidating important details like registration deadlines and articulating the importance of the vote on issues like healthcare, education, and immigration.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as making the ask. Thanh Ngo, a middle-aged Vietnamese man who had been living in the states for the past 20 years, was asked to register to vote for the very first time – and successfully persuaded – by Vietnamese American volunteer Minh Gia Nguyen.
“It’s your benefit as a citizen,” she explains. “Do it for your family, for your children’s future.”
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