by Akemi Tamanaha, Associate Editor
The 2020 election, which saw Kamala Harris become the first Asian American Vice President, marked a turning point for Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. TargetSmart Insights, an organization that examines voting trends, says that this year there was an unprecedented surge in participation among Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters.
On Wednesday Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote), hosted a press conference to elaborate on the trends TargetSmart had identified and to discuss community efforts to increase AAPI voter turnout.
TargetSmart has been focusing their research on AAPI early voter turnout in presidential battleground states. It found that early voting among AAPI voters was up 21% in presidential battleground states.
Stephanie Cho, Executive Director of Asian American Advancing Justice – Atlanta, said at the press conference that Asian American early voting was up 59% from 2016 in Georgia alone. Among those early voters, 27% said they were voting for the first time. TargetSmart says that AAPI early voting was also up 41% in Arizona.
Community leaders at the press conference emphasized that early grassroots engagement drove the increase in AAPI voter turnout. They outlined some of the strategies they used to reach out to voters.
According to Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIA Vote, the organization sent two rounds of mailers in 15 different Asian languages to 700,000 households across the country.
APIA Vote also worked with local Asian American community groups to host 50 training sessions on the importance of civic engagement.
Other organizations also found ways to safely resume door-to-door campaign efforts. An Asian American immigrant and refugee organization called SEAMAAC safely knocked on 4,000 doors in Pennsylvania.
Young Asian Americans also helped mobilize Asian American voters in swing states.
“Our organization is mostly led by young staff, and our leadership are young people,” Linda Her, Executive Director, Asian American Organizing Project in Minnesota said. “Here in Minnesota we’ve been engaging with young voters ages 18 to 35 in every election since 2015.”
Community leaders said that they found success in their messaging around issues. Groups focused on the issue-based concerns of specific populations. In Georgia, Cho says her organization was able to appeal to AAPI voters who were concerned about COVID-19. Other community leaders said they had done the same.
“I think the issue around COVID has really galvanized Asian Americans both young and old to get more involved,” Cho said.
Cho hopes that her organization will be able to continue mobilizing voters heading into the Georgia Senate races in January.
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