COMMENTARY: APIs need to vote

Rahul Gupta

By Rahul Gupta
APACE Board Member
On behalf of APACE

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have several beliefs in common. Our families need to be strong, our elders need security, and our children deserve a fair shot at a prosperous future. Our proud history as Americans and Washingtonians is what keeps us focused on making our communities stronger by fighting for fair housing laws, affordable and quality healthcare, livable wage jobs, and a quality education. Our businesses are the backbone of our success.

Today, we are at a point in our history where we have the opportunity to make our voice stronger and louder. Our communities have more than doubled in population since 1990. Nearly 250,000 APIs are eligible to vote in Washington (accounting for nearly one in 10 voters). Sadly, however, fewer than half of APIs are registered to vote.

Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE) and a broad coalition of community partners are working to strengthen our community by registering, educating, and mobilizing eligible voters. When ballots are delivered later this month, a strong API vote could change the outcome of elections that matter to us. The API community needs to select candidates who will support our interests and be held accountable to our values in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

Too many candidates and media outlets have ignored our concerns this election. It’s a shame when the resignation of a Rob McKenna campaign staffer who posted disparaging remarks about Asians and senior citizens on Twitter is, arguably, the most attention any API issue received this election season.

With the election less than a month away, we are reminded that API voter participation increased only 4 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to national statistics. This year, API voters are expected to turn out nationally like never before and we believe Washington state can set a high bar for the rest of the country to follow.

We need to keep pushing our successes. In King County, the state’s most-inhabited county, the API population has almost tripled in the past two decades and it helped to create the first majority people of color congressional district and three of the four majority people of color legislative districts around the state (the 11th, 33rd, and 37th).

Our growing API population in Washington state can claim its voice by registering and exercising our rights as voters and Americans. While electronic registration is over, first time registrants may still register to vote at their local elections office until October 29th. Participating fully in our democracy, and in our communities, is essential to building a strong base and voice in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

Only then will the real issues we all face be more important than a Twitter post.

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