Kamala Harris posted this photo on Instagram of her grandmother visiting an Indian village
The Asian and Pacific Islander American vote may take on more significance in the 2020 election, Houston Public Media reports.
Some 1.5 million residents of Texas are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. A 2017 Pew Research Center release also demonstrated that 23% of Asian Americans reside in the South and are projected to increase, indicating a shift in voting demographic.
Speaking to Houston Public Media, Christine Chen, executive director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, said that the historic nomination of Sen. Kamala Harris, (D-CA) a biracial Indian American and African American legislator, may be an incentive for Asian American Texans to vote.
“A lot of it has been based off of the fact that not only is she Indian American but for the fact that she grew up in an immigrant family,” Chen said. “And so many immigrants, which make up two-thirds of the Asian American population, are viewing this as, ‘this is an individual that potentially understands the values of my own family and the struggles that we may have.'”
More specifically, Texas political organizers are hoping to rally votes from South Asian communities this election cycles, Texas Tribune reports. With five candidates of South Asian descent running for county, state and federal office in the state, organizers see opportunities to capitalize on the surge.
Chanda Parbhoo, founder of South Asian Americans for Voter Education + Engagement + Empowerment, a Texas organization to boost South Asian American civic engagement, told Texas Tribune the group seeks to educate districts with a large South Asian voting bloc.
“Oftentimes when we’re having the conversation, they are not aware of what a South Asian is, [or] they didn’t know anything about our demographic,” Parbhoo told Texas Tribune.
Even though the community is not monolithic, the political organizers and candidates see 2020 as “the most pivotal year yet for the community.”
On top of Harris’ nomination and upsurge of Asian American candidates, Asian Americans voters may also be motivated by the repercussions of COVID-19 — residents of the state have reported increased verbal harassment in relation to the virus, KUT reports. Harassment and hate crimes are also on the rise.
When asked how she expects Asian American voters to contribute to the state’s voting trend overall, Chen remained ambivalent, emphasizing they have the ability to reshape the state’s politics and that elected officials should pay attention.
“Because of the changing demographics and I think the combination of not only the Latino vote but also new immigrants from the Asian American population, it makes Texas in play,” she told Houston Public Media. “Because these are new voters that are energized and are participating at higher rates this year, they really can be a base of new voters that really can change and reshape the campaigns that are going forward for 2020, as well as beyond.”
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