Campaign seeks to get AAPIs to vote in June 7 primary

AS California’s June 7 primary approaches, 20 organizations plan on calling 20,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) registered voters in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in a campaign called “Your Vote Matters.”

“Primaries have lower turnout than general elections in November, which amplifies the power of those who do cast a vote this June,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, which is part of the campaign. “While we are non-partisan, the ‘Your Vote Matters’ coalition believes that by working together, we can increase Asian American and Pacific Islander electoral participation and demonstrate our community’s potential as the ‘margin of victory’ on election day.”

The campaign comes as Asian Americans are predicted to compromise approximately 11 percent of California voters in the 2016 presidential election. However, many AAPI voters still face barriers at the ballot.

“Many first-generation voters don’t speak English and lack access to information about the candidates, the voting process … and because they haven’t received personal contact from campaigns, they may be less aware of the critical link between how they vote and how their lives are impacted on a day-to-day basis,” said Kelly Osajima, voter engagement manager at Advancing Justice-LA.

Among information AAPI voters may not be aware of include the difference between primary and general elections, and knowing the rules of the party of the candidate one wishes to vote for.

The American Independent, Democratic and Libertarian parties, for instance, allow “cross-over voting” by voters with no party preferences. However, the Green, Peace and Freedom, and Republican parties only allow voters registered with their respective party to vote for their candidates.

Another aspect to consider, are potential problems that could arise for those opting to vote by mail. Deanna Kitamura, voting rights project director at Advancing Justice-LA, said

Additionally, to vote on June 7, voters must be registered by Monday, May 23.

“Your Vote Matters” will be carried out in 10 different languages, including Tagalog, and has more than 150 bilingual staff and volunteers from the participating organizations.

“When we’re exercising our right [to vote], we’re registering ourselves and being counted not only in that moment of the vote of which candidate or issues to be voted on, but we’re starting to register the strength and unity of our community so that when we also come back to these legislatures, when we speak out about policy, our voices are more powerful,” said Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center.

The organization will be phone banking and going out into the community – particularly Filipino grocery stores, churches and community festivals – to participate in the campaign.

California is home to the largest AAPI population in the United States. From 2002 to 2012, the number of registered Asian American voters jumped 60 percent.

In the 2012 presidential election, 1.7 million Asian Americans were registered to vote.

Other organizations participating in the “Your Vote Matters” campaign, which is in its 10th year of mobilizing AAPIs to participate in elections, include: API Equality-LA, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Asian Pacific Health Care Venture, Asian Youth Center, Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Filipino Migrant Center, Khmer Girls in Action, Korean American Coalition, Korean Resource Center, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, KW Lee Center for Leadership, Little Tokyo Service Center, Organization of Chinese Americans – Greater Los Angeles, Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance, ROC-LA, South Asian Network and Thai Community Development Center.

“2016 is such a critical election year…We want our community to know that yes, your vote matters!” said Versoza.

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