By Derek Lum
We’ve all been there before. You forgot to update your voting address, you recently became a citizen, or maybe you forgot to turn in your voter registration form. For some reason, your voter registration information is either wrong or out of date and you need to register to vote again. If you want to participate in our democracy, you first need to register to vote. But among the daily struggles we all experience — whether it’s looking after your loved ones, working at your job, or even having fun, it’s easy to forget.
Our democracy is at its best when every voice is heard and every vote is counted. In 2016, only 49 percent of API voters mailed in their ballots. That doesn’t even count the people in our community who are eligible to vote, but have yet to register. You become another person that our outdated system has prevented others from being able to vote.
People all over Washington face these issues every day. The Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE) is trying to change that. We are working with the Washington Voting Justice Coalition to pass Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in the state legislature. With this new legislation, registering to vote is no longer needed and one million unregistered voters would be able to fulfill their duty to our democracy and vote. If you interact with certain government programs, then you would be registered to vote unless you say otherwise. We are also advocating for the legislation to include strong protections for undocumented people from being accidentally registered. This is particularly meaningful to our community because in Washington state, 14 percent of undocumented people are APIs.
Registering to vote should be automatic. If you visit the Medicaid office, the Department of Licensing, or update your information with any government program, your voting information should also get updated. Every eligible voter should be able to fully participate in our democracy.
Automatic voter registration will be extremely helpful to many Washingtonians. But it will especially be helpful to people in our community. There are many reasons our voter registration might become inactive. Maybe we moved recently, or we simply did not see any candidates on the ballot we like, or we haven’t voted in years. Whatever the reason, it is unfair that our community is punished because of this. We all deserve equal access to the ballot, and this legislation will bring us one step closer to true equity in voting. Please join APACE, APIC, One America, and many other immigrant and refugee organizations in supporting the strongest version of this legislation possible. Please call 1-800-562-6000 to voice your support for a strong AVR bill that includes multiple state agencies and protects undocumented people. Or go to leg.wa.gov to email your legislator.