By Derek Lum
APACEvotes Community Organizer
It has been a historic session in the Washington state legislature. Four laws passed this year that will make Washington one of states with the strongest access for voters. APACEvotes worked to pass one of these laws, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR).
Through this new law, the voter registration process is simpler for many people. If you get an Enhanced Driver’s License, you will be automatically registered to vote or your information will be updated. Another way citizens will be registered to vote is if you sign up for health insurance with the Healthcare Benefits Exchange.
You will be presented with a registration form that has already been electronically filled in for you, and you can choose to turn it in. This simplified process will help more people get their ballot, and more people hopefully will vote.
This law will help increase our AAPI voice in the democratic process. Merely half of all eligible AAPIs are registered to vote in Washington. Language barriers, lack of trust in government, and not understanding the voting process have kept our voting participation low. Our issues and faces are not represented in government.
Our community is 60 percent first generation immigrants, and many are impoverished. Economic survival leaves little time for civic engagement. However, this voting law will help us establish a pattern of voting all across our community. People who vote tend to vote again and children of voters also tend to vote regularly.
In my work in Olympia, I was often one of a few AAPIs in the room. I would often have to speak for our entire diverse community in my conversations with legislators and testimonies before committees on the AVR law.
Luckily, there were supportive AAPI legislators, such as Senator Hasegawa, Representatives Gregerson, Santos, and Ryu, as well as other friendly legislators and staff there to encourage me.
We cannot be afraid to speak our truth to our governing officials. Visiting in-person is the most powerful way to influence the positions of the legislators, but emailing them or writing them letters are also effective. Please pay attention to the issues and speak out on those you care about!
There are many organizations that help our AAPI communities advocate for what we care about. One of them is APACEvotes. Please visit us at APACEvotes.org and email us to get involved at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need your passion and time!