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Why Asian Americans Voted Democratic

By Glenn Magpantay, Democracy Program Director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

Above: AALDEF election protection volunteers observe long lines of voters in Columbia Heights on Election Day.
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Nationally, a whopping 73% of Asian Americans voted for President Obama, according to the exit polls. In the swing state of Virginia, Obama captured 66% of our vote. Asian Americans were a driving force in Virginia’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race. Preliminary data from AALDEF’s exit polls reveal that 71.9% of the APPI vote went to Democratic candidate Tim Kaine, the winner.

So what drove nearly 3 out of 4 Asian Americans to cast Democratic votes? It wasn’t outreach by the political parties. The majority (51%) of Asian Americans nationally said they were never contacted by a campaign, political party, or community group to register to vote or to vote.

Moreover, Asian Americans are still struggling for equal access to the ballot, and Virginia was no exception. A polling place in Annandale, Virginia was the site of what we characterize as one of the most egregious incidents of racial discrimination against Asian American voters, as reported by AALDEF poll monitors.

A group of elderly Korean Americans trying to vote in Annandale were discriminated against by poll workers and asked to stand in a separate line. After those voters presented proper ID, authorities demanded that they say their names and home addresses out loud in English, which was difficult and embarrassing for those with limited English proficiency. The poll workers grew frustrated that the seniors didn’t understand the instructions, and then issued this order: “Korean people stand in a separate line.” The poll workers began talking to white voters, while the Korean Americans had to wait.

Nonetheless, Asian Americans made their voices heard – and they were driven to vote Democratic because of the issues themselves. Nationally, the vast majority of Asian American voters (58%) said that fixing the economy and creating more jobs was the most important issue. 45% of Asian Americans supported a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, with 26% stating that taxes on the wealthy should be increased. Only 14% of Asian Americans supported spending cuts alone to reduce the deficit.

Which party does that sound like?

Additionally, 60% of Asian American voters supported the federal government’s role in ensuring access to health insurance, and 57% of our community’s voters supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Among U.S. born Asian American citizens, AALDEF’s poll show support was as high as 73% for basics of the DREAM Act.

Asian American voters’ position on issues aligned strongly with the Democrats in this election, and in swing states like Virginia, this fact made them a driving force in both the U.S. Senate and Presidential election. As the Asian American population is the fastest growing demographic nationally, politicians and parties should take note.

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