It’s that time again. Time to do your civic duty by filling out your ballots.
This year, we, as a newspaper and as part of the Asian community, have been blessed. We’ve had many political candidates reaching out to us for the first time. For instance, on Oct. 15, Sea Beez, a coalition of local ethnic media, and the Urban Enterprise Center, the multicultural arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, teamed up in sponsoring a candidates’ meet-and-greet and an initiatives debate (read the story on the front page).
There are many people out there — politicians even — who have bluntly said that the ethnic community doesn’t vote. They say we don’t vote because we don’t care. This is why they don’t bother speaking with us or getting to know us. In their view, we are inconsequential.
We are not inconsequential. In the 2008 presidential election in North Carolina, Florida, and New Mexico, minorities were essential to President Barack Obama’s victory. Many were voting for the first time in their lives. That year alone, 49 percent of Asians in the nation turned out to vote, up 4 percent from 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
This year, minorities have the power to affect the outcomes of state elections, especially where the race is extremely close. This year, voting is important for both Democrats and Republicans.
According to an NPR poll, there are currently 100 “battleground” House districts across the nation (up from 70 in June). NPR reports that the majority of these seats are held by Democrats. This is problematic for Democrats because if most incumbents don’t win, it could mean that Congress is swaying more toward a Republican stance. In turn, this would affect policies, such as those involving health care or foreign relations.
We are not inconsequential because candidates are paying attention to minority voters more than ever.
They realize that we don’t all vote the same, so candidates should not take our votes for granted. A Filipino person could vote in a vastly different way than a Chinese person, due to cultural, ethnic, and religious differences.
Most Asian Americans who aren’t fluent in English tend to vote because of candidates who have charmed them, but not because of the initiatives. However, though initiatives don’t seem as exciting as voting for a candidate, they are still extremely important to be aware of.
This week, we covered two initiatives that have the potential to greatly affect ethnic communities, I-1098 and I-1100. One deals with a state income tax for high-income earners. The other deals with whether liquor will be sold outside of state-run liquor stores. These issues affect every person who has children or who runs a small business — that’s a lot of Asian Americans.
So this year, we urge you to vote, not only for individual candidates but also for measures. We urge you all to be engaged with what’s going on in your legislature — because you matter. ♦