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Activists march to defend against attacks on their right to vote

By Briana Lim, AsAmNews Intern

This Saturday on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, thousands of Americans will march through cities, demanding voting rights.

The group March on for Voting Rights will lead demonstrations in Phoenix, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. for federal voter rights protection from voter suppression bills. Among these activists will be members of APIAVote who work to support the Asian American vote.

“Between January 1 and July 14, 2021, at least 18 states enacted 30 laws that restrict access to the vote,” the Brennan Center finds. “More than 400 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.”

Voter suppression is often associated with Jim Crow laws and the historic oppression of Black voters. But restrictive tactics like limiting mail and early voting, complicating voter registration, or imposing harsher voter ID requirements make voting more difficult for all minorities, ACLU reports.

AAPI voters had the largest increase in turnout among all racial groups between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, which assuredly assisted President Biden’s victory.

Kevin Hirano, director of Development and Communications at APIAVote, explains the possible effects of these bills on AAPI voters during an email exchange with AsAmNews.

“Despite the risks of the pandemic and growing hate incidents, AAPI voters showed up – thanks in large part to measures that expanded access to the polls. We know 73 percent of AAPI voters cast their ballots early or by mail in the 2020 election. We also know the demand for in-language materials was extraordinarily high in our communities,” he told AsAmNews.

He sees laws that restrict voting access as “a direct attack designed to diminish AAPI voter turnout and put our communities’ safety and future in peril.”

Though APIAVote has worked tirelessly to support the Asian American vote, it isn’t enough, Hirano explains. “Despite our best efforts to register voters and encourage them to get to the polls, we cannot out-organize, out-litigate, or out-register these attacks on voting rights. We need federal action now.”

The House of Representatives has passed the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, two bills that will protect voting rights of AAPIs and other disenfranchised groups in future elections.

“These measures would help protect against discriminatory, over-restrictive voter ID laws that put our immigrant communities at risk, allow the option to vote early or by mail, block racial and partisan gerrymandering and promote access to translated materials for voters in different languages,” says Hirano.

Activists are now calling on the Senate to vote these bills into laws.

“But stiff Republican opposition awaits in the Senate, where a likely filibuster threatens to sink the bill before it can reach President Biden’s desk,” the New York Times reports.

But Hirano is steadfast. “AAPIs have made too much progress to stop now. The ability of every individual to have a say in our political process is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must use this power to elevate our community and create change.”

“We are here, and we will be heard. To truly #StopAsianHate and sustain our progress, we must work together to secure voting rights for all.”

Click here to learn more about the movement and RSVP for Saturday’s march.

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