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GOTV! Getting Out the Asian American Vote

Above: Christine Chen, Executive Director, APIAVote
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Submitted by Christine Chen, Executive Director, APIAVote

APIAVote predicts that the 2012 elections will see the largest mobilization effort ever to get Asian American and Pacific Islander citizens to vote. And we just may make the difference in some of the extremely close races.

APIAVote is a national nonpartisan organization that mobilizes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to take their rightful place in our nation’s electoral and civic life. As the only national AAPI institution solely focused on voter mobilization and civic participation of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, APIAVote works at the national, state and local levels.

We know why APIAs have to vote. Here’s how we are working to make that happen.

This year, APIAVote is focusing on developing the capacity of local nonprofit groups to incorporate voter engagement activities into their programs. Earlier this year, we held regional training sessions in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, Washington and California. At these gatherings, we shared effective Get Out The Vote (GOTV) practices and we delved deeply into the science behind successful voter registration. We developed practical voter contact and mobilization programs.

According to the group Nonprofit Vote, which examined its nonprofit voter mobilization experiment, potential voters who were contacted were not only more likely to vote, but were also more likely to encourage their friends and family to vote. Voter registration contacts and voting reminders made the biggest difference in increasing voter turnout among the methods employed.

Since then APIAVote has provided resources to nonprofit organizations in 14 states across the country. Viva Mogi, APIAVote’s national field director, has been working with each community organization to develop field plans. During weekly calls, we compare notes and share what works best. We look for ways to cut down expenses, such as identifying which translated materials can be reproduced by many groups for national distribution.

We also put much of APIAVote’s resources to work dealing with mainstream and ethnic press, political parties and candidates to educate them on the importance of the AAPI electorate. For example, if you had researched or googled “Asian Americans and voting” earlier this year, you would not have found our community mentioned in news coverage of the election. But now that APIAVote, Asian American Justice Center and the Asian American Institute have released our national poll, we are seeing a tremendous increase in coverage of our role in this year’s elections and our importance in battleground states such as Virginia and Nevada.

APIAVote hosted a Presidential Town Hall this year at George Mason University. President Obama and former Governor Romney sent video messages and we heard speakers from APIA groups representing both candidates. The Obama and Romney messages may be viewed here:

The 2012 National Asian American Survey is available at

We’re on social media, too. Thanks to a partnership with the Center for Asian American Media and Comcast, we have a public service announcement being aired nationwide:

APIAVote has an online tool which allows a person to register properly. Many of APIAVote’s youth partners, such as the East Coast Asian American Students Union, Midwest Asian American Students Union and the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhallenic, are using Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube to get their peers registered with this tool. These efforts support APIAVote’s YouthVote campaign, which is focused on campus- based voter registration drives. Our latest partnership includes the creator of Little Angry Asian Girl, Lela Lee. Copies of a poster are available for distribution by our youth and community partners.

We have also begun partnering with various APIA-oriented press outlets to make this tool available for their readers and viewers online.

Why do we think the 2012 efforts will be the largest mobilization effort for Asian American and Pacific Islanders? We have seen a larger number of nonprofit organizations and individuals mobilizing locally, and more resources are being harnessed to reach this community than ever before.

These days we often see elections being won by a handful of votes. This means that the political parties view the AAPI electorate as a swing vote. This is particularly true when survey after survey reveals that typically 31% of Asian American and Pacific Islander voters tend to be undecided even a month or two leading up to the election. As an example, in 2006, the Virginia Senate race was won by less than 1% of the electorate. At that time, AAPI voters constituted as much as 3% of the Virginia electorate. AAPI voters continue to be talked about as an important constituent that is a priority for outreach to the campaigns in this year’s Senate race.


--In Virginia, Hai Hua Community Center is focusing on reaching out to Chinese language schools, churches, and other social groups to increase voting registration with their members. For example, voter registration drives are being hosted at Wei Hwa Chinese School, Hope Centerville, McLean Chinese Church, and Silverlight Senior Association. For more information and the full schedule, please contact Hank Chao

--The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s SikhVOTE campaign in Virginia targets universities and Gurdwaras. Two or three trips to Gurdwaras every Sunday are planned until the registration deadline. Please contact: Aarti Sardana at 202-567-7454

-- Voices of Vietnamese Americans’ direct contact program includes phone banking, canvassing, registering and meeting face to face at community events, pagodas, and churches in Fairfax. Virginia enjoys the 5th largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the nation, with the total population recorded by Census 2010 at 53,529. Of that number, 6,220 are newly counted persons, representing an astounding 43% increase. County. Contact: Genie Nguyen for volunteer for this program at 703-593-7182.

--Korean American Association of Virginia concentrates their energies on getting eligible Korean American voters in Virginia to register to vote at church and at senior centers. An example will be at Central Presbyterian Church | The Korean Central Presbyterian. These voter registration drives happen on Sundays. Please contact Steve Lee at 703-914-8858

-- The Filipino American Vote Coalition of Hampton Roads (FAVCOHR) serves the Hampton Roads metropolitan area (formerly called Tidewater). It is home to nearly 40,000 Filipinos who reside in the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. According to the 2010 Census, the number of Filipinos in this area increased by 33 percent in just ten years. For voter registration and voter contact, FAVCOHR is recruiting volunteers and reaching out to Filipinos at church services, community events and Filipino grocery stores and restaurants. FAVCOHR is also scheduling regular voter outreach at Filipino American community centers. To get involved, contact Naomi Estaris at 757-424-3311 ext 304 or

APIAVote envisions a world that is inclusive, fair, and collaborative, and where Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities are self-determined, empowered, and engaged. It is also committed to developing an era in which all Asian Pacific Islander Americans fully participate in and have access to the democratic process.

APIAVote and its partners will be looking for volunteers to help us with voter registration drives and in October our work in educating voters about the new voter identification laws.

Young People Can Get Involved in Fairfax

APIAVote Service Corp is recruiting Asian American and Pacific Islander high school students ages16 and up to assist at the polls on election day. These volunteers will provide language support to New Americans, and specifically Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, at the polls.

Why is assistance needed?

Recent census data shows that approximately 32% of Asian Americans have limited English proficiency. Asian Americans speak dozens of languages and dialects. Nearly 3 out of 4 Asian Americans speak a language other than English at home, and roughly one-third is limited-English proficient (LEP).

Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act provides that a person who needs assistance as a result of blindness, disability, or the inability to read or write is eligible to receive assistance from the person of his or her choice, provided the person is not an agent or officer of the voter’s employer or labor union.

Fairfax voter laws require those assisting to have the same photo identification requirement for voting ( i.e. drivers license, state ID, American passport). There is no rule that they have to be citizens but they must have government-issued photo ID. Conversational bilingual students will walk New American voters wanting language assistance through the polls. Non conversational skilled students can serve as team leaders, work outside the polls to provide a visual magnet, coordinate distribution of assistance, or keep records of assistance provided. Adult supervisors will be onsite.

There are 239 voting precincts in Fairfax. The plan is to have language support teams in a number of them to provide minimal assistance in the major languages of Korean, Urdu, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

Students chosen to join APIAVote’s Service Corp will be required to:

  • Work one of the shifts on election day: 9am-2pm or 2pm-7pm.

  • Attend one of the trainings offered the week prior to election day.

Volunteers can receive extra credit hours for community service by helping to recruit additional volunteers.

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