California’s Asian community is eager to get the vote out

World Today

With the U.S. midterm elections just around the corner, the push is on to get out the vote. Unlike years past, the Asian community is eager to head to the polls this November, despite a lack of outreach by candidates to Asian voters.

CGTN’s May Lee takes a closer look.

At a recent phone banking event, high school students were manning the phones. They’re too young to vote, but old enough to get out the vote. The election phone bank is an effort by the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance, or OCAPICA.

Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, has the third largest Asian population in the country, and the Asian vote is fast becoming a crucial one. Even so, candidates are falling short in reaching out.

“Many of our voters when we call them, they’re like, you’re the first person who has ever called in language, in my native language. No one else is outreaching to us,” Mary Anne Foo, Executive Director of OCAPICA said. 

Despite that, Asian voters are still eager to engage in the upcoming midterms.

OCAPICA is seeing a noticeable change in the level of voter interest, which supports a recent survey of Asian and Pacific Islanders across the country. About 48 percent polled said they are more enthusiastic about voting this year compared to only 28 percent in 2014.

The survey also found 52-percent of Asian voters have an unfavorable view of the Republican party, versus a 58-percent favorable view of Democrats. When it comes to Donald Trump, 58-percent also disapprove of his job as president.

Some of the most important issues to Asian voters are jobs and the economy, education, gun control, and citizenship. At the University of California Irvine (UC Irvine), Asian students are more energized than most, because the issues are personal.

“More of the active students are coming from those backgrounds because they’ve seen the impact of things like immigration and refugee policy on their families, on their communities,” Bill Maurer, UC Irvine’s Dean of Social Sciences said.

“My parents are refugees from Vietnam,” said college student Annie Nguyen, “so it was really important for them to have that political freedom to vote.”

Another college student Kala Gin said, “To me voting is about having our voices heard because representation matters, especially for young people and communities of color.”

Asian Americans’ growing interest in political engagement gives advocates hope this is the start of a powerful force that will no longer be dismissed and ignored.

“Asian Americans are a force to be reckoned with, and so I think that we’re still coming of age as a community,” said Sylvia Kim, regional director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Orange County, “but I look forward to the day when we can truly be a political force to be reckoned with as well.”

With Asian-Americans becoming the fastest-growing voting bloc in the U.S., that day of reckoning may come sooner than later.