Twelve-year-old Katherine Kang is a middle schooler who is not yet old enough to vote, but she is still devoting time to go through her mom Julie’s voters pamphlet. Katherine is getting a jumpstart on some good habits — she says she can’t wait until she’s 18.
“If you don’t go out and vote, you can’t complain about the outcome,” Katherine told Northwest Asian Weekly, when asked why she thinks voting is important.
This year, registered voters have until 8 p.m. on Aug. 1 to send back ballots (or have them postmarked) in order for the ballot to be counted in the primary election.
We highly encourage all of our readers to cast their vote, especially our young readers, our readers of color, and our Asian American and Pacific Islander American readers. Voter turnout for these groups have historically been low compared to the general population, and it is ever-important to change this data.
Obstacles in voting exist for us. A fact to note is that according to the U.S. Census, low-income citizens (family incomes of $20,000 or less) are far less likely to vote — only 47 percent of this group compared to 80 percent of those with annual earnings of $100,000 or more. The barrier commonly cited for this disparity is actually centered around practicality. Blacks and Latinos, for instance, are three times more likely than whites to not receive an absentee ballot.
Asian Americans have the highest income average and the highest educational attainment on average — factors that traditionally produce high voter turnout. However, Asian Americans have the lowest voter participation rate of any demographic group, according to Pew Research.
How can this be?
Well, according to Census data, about 33 percent of Asian Americans speak limited English, which is a barrier for prospective voters. Immigrants made up 74 percent of Asian Americans. While the Voting Rights Act requires that ballots get translated for populations of 5 percent of 10,000 limited-English speakers who share the same native language, in August 2016, only 22 counties/cities in the United States actually met that requirement for Asian languages.
A lot of the time, Asian Americans who are registered voters are unaware that they have a right to access these in-language materials. Now that you know, please ask for in-language materials, for yourself or for a family member or friend.
And then be sure to mark Aug. 1 on the calendar to ensure your ballot gets counted. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, yet we are still often overlooked by elected officials and leaders. We need to change this impression of us. And we won’t lie — it won’t be an easy endeavor. It will take an ongoing, collective effort. But it is worth it.