FilAms 2nd largest among registered Asian voters in California

Executive Director Stewart Kwoh presents Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA's report on the  growing power of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the polls.  Seated from left: Dan Ichinose, Project Director of Demographic Research Project; Tanzila Ahmed, Voter Engagement Manager;  Alisi Tulua of Empowering Pacific Islander; and Jacqueline Wu, Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance. Photo by Dante Ochoa/TheFilAmLA

Executive Director Stewart Kwoh presents Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA’s report on the growing power of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the polls. Seated from left: Dan Ichinose, Project Director of Demographic Research Project; Tanzila Ahmed, Voter Engagement Manager; Alisi Tulua of Empowering Pacific Islander; and Jacqueline Wu, Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance. Photo by Dante Ochoa/TheFilAmLA

By Cecile Caguingin Ochoa

Stewart Kwoh, Executive Director of Advancing Justice-LA, underlined the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ vote this coming election November 4 during a media symposium October 30 in Los Angeles.

Kwoh released his organization’s report that shows that nearly 1.7 million Asian Americans were registered to vote in California as of the 2012 General Election. The report also found that Asian American voter registration exceeded the margin of victory in 38 Congressional, State, Senate and State Assembly races during that election. A panelist from different members of community groups joined the symposium.

The Report shows that registered Filipino voters made up the second largest Asian group at 373, 745. Chinese registered as first largest at 461,636. It also shows that 61 percent of Asian American/Pacific Islander registered voters are immigrants.

“As Asian American and Pacific Islander communities continue to grow, so does their ability to affect the outcome of elections,” said Dan Ichinose, demographic research project director at Advancing Justice – LA. “Elected officials can no longer afford to ignore issues critical to our communities like immigration and health care reform.”

He said 72 percent of Asian voters in 2012 supported Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that ensures certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Ichinose added that 74 percent of Asian American voters supported initiatives about language access to health care.

However, the report also notes lower voter turnout among Asian American youth and immigrants, underscoring the importance of targeted voter engagement efforts.

For the past six weeks, through the non-partisan “Your Vote Matters! 2014” campaign, Advancing Justice-LA has been targeting thousands of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the Los Angeles area to turn out and vote on Tuesday, November 4th.

Using a multilingual and culturally-appropriate strategy, the “Your Vote Matters! 2014” campaign is partnering with 14 community-based organizations and four youth groups. Over 21 days, volunteers from these groups have been calling voters in 17 languages: Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Khmer, Tagalog, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Urdu, Punjabi, Samoan, Thai, Tongan and Vietnamese. This campaign is the nation’s largest multilingual phone banking effort to “get out the vote” in the AAPI community.

“We find that when voters are asked about the voting process by someone from their own culture and in their own language, they stay on the phone longer and want to have a conversation,” said Tanzila Ahmed, Advancing Justice – LA’s voter engagement manager. “On the flip side, the volunteers making the calls – who range from 14 to 70 years old and are from the community – are finding a certain pride both in their culture and language, in providing help to new voters from their own community. It’s a win-win, both ways you look at it.”

“Civic engagement efforts like these are critical to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Jaqueline Wu, Policy Manager at Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA). In partnership with the “Your Vote Matters! 2014” campaign, OCAPICA has been running a similar phone bank based in Garden Grove. “We’ve also been surveying the community to see what issues are important to them – health, education and jobs are the top issues for Orange County voters – so that we can be of better service to them.”

Advancing Justice – LA will send trained volunteers to scores of polling locations across Southern California on Election Day. This is to ensure that voters are treated fairly and have access to translated voting materials and bilingual poll workers as required by law. According to the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis, Asian Americans will make up nearly 11 percent of California by the 2016 presidential elections.

“The goal of poll monitoring is to identify and address any problems that arise on Election Day so that voters, including first-time and limited English proficient voters, can assert their right to vote,” says Eugene Lee, democracy project director at Advancing Justice – LA. In Los Angeles County, written and oral language assistance is available under federal law in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese (with oral assistance also available in Bengali and Gujarati). In Orange County, language assistance is available under federal law in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese; under state law, language assistance is available in Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, and Tagalog at select polling locations.

“Your Vote Matters! 2014” community partners include: API Equality-LA, Asian Youth Center, Council for American Islamic Relations, Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment, Japanese American Citizens League, Empowering Pacific Islander Community, KIWA, Khmer Girls in Action, Muslim Public Affairs Council, OCAPICA, Pilipino Workers Center, Thai CDC, Sikh American Legal Defense Fund, and South Asian Network.

The “Your Vote Matters! 2014” voter hotlines are: 213-241-0213 (English); 213-241-8841 (Chinese); 213-241-8842 (Khmer); 213-241-8840 (Korean); 213-241-8844 (Thai); and 213-241-8843 (Vietnamese).

The “Your Vote Matters! 2014” campaign is a project of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles with the purpose of empowering, mobilizing, and protecting the rights of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Voters. Advancing Justice – LA is a 501c3 non-partisan organization that does not advocate on behalf of parties or candidates. However the group will educate voters on select propositions.

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