By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The presidential election this past November and the state of Georgia runoff election for the U.S. Senate were of the utmost importance to both Democrats and Republicans. Vying for Asian American Pacific Islander votes, people from across the country encouraged others to vote in battleground states. This took on huge importance in Georgia as the power in the Senate hung in the balance.
Former KING-5 anchorwoman Lori Matsukawa was asked by her friend, Mimi Gan, to help out with a project.
“There were snacks, we drank tea, and hand wrote postcards,” said Matsukawa of the effort to encourage newly registered voters to participate in the November election. The push to get out the vote in November extended into January with the race for the senate in Georgia.
“We did it because we were motivated. We felt we had a role to play and could make a difference.”
There is a continuing increase in the number of Asian Americans eligible to vote in the state of Georgia and the demographic was key for both Democrats and Republicans in the general election in November, as well as the runoff election held on Jan. 5 for the two senate seats. “The Asian American community has blossomed,” said Sam Park, a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives. “Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in Georgia next to Hispanics.” Park worked with many Asian American Pacific Islander groups to get out the vote for Democrats.
“We saw the fruit of all of their hard work and saw a surge of Asian American voters, particularly young, 18-29 years old, that helped flip the state for Biden.”
The senate seats were ‘too close to call,’ which necessitated a runoff. By state rule, no candidate can advance through a primary or a general election system without first earning more than 50% of the votes. If no one does, the top two vote getters advance to a runoff election.
Democrat Jon Ossoff faced Republican David Perdue in one contest, and Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler vied for the other seat. With the senate in favor of the Republicans by a slim 51-49 margin, a win by the Democrats would reverse the margin. A win for Republicans would keep the status quo. A split would have each party equal, although the Vice President breaks any deadlocks in votes.
“I think it mattered,” said Matsukawa of the handwritten notes to prospective voters and subsequent victories.
As a former member of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Gary Tang helped with voter registration. He also helped immigrant populations navigate the voting process and some asked him if voting would make a difference. Obviously, it does. He felt compelled to help this year with the fall election. As part of the Progressive Turnout Project, Tang and his partner volunteered to handwrite postcards to prospective voters.
“We sent out 200 postcards to Wisconsin,” said Tang. The state was one of several that were determined to be a ‘battleground state’ that could go either in favor of the incumbent Donald Trump or Joe Biden. As a volunteer, Tang was given a mailing list across all ethnic groups. “We understood that with handwritten cards, voters would be motivated to go out and vote.”
“I usually am quite impatient about writing like everyone else,” said Tang jokingly about the effort to write out the messages. “We are all used to texts.”
The postcards were free, and volunteers like Tang paid for the postage to send to prospective voters. The notes were pre-scripted messages which urged registered voters to get out and vote.
Tang wrote another 100 postcards before Christmas in an effort to get out the vote for the runoff in Georgia.
The night of the runoff election in Georgia, Tang was worried about the outcome.
“I worried about the results,” Tang recalled as he went to bed with the election results too close to call. “I woke up at 4 a.m. and said, ‘Oh my goodness,’ as Tang saw the results showed that Warnock had won his U.S. Senate runoff against the incumbent Loeffler. Later that day, news outlets called the second race for Ossoff.
In the end, the state of Georgia elected the Democratic candidates to the U.S. Senate thanks in part to the grassroots efforts of making sure that people got out and voted.
“I am so delighted,” said Matsukawa. “I really felt we had to give the Biden-Harris administration the best shot for success.” With the win, the U.S. Senate will be controlled by the Democrats. The party holds the advantage in Congress, Senate, and the newly elected president.
Perhaps the new lawmakers will help make a difference, especially with the events that transpired on Jan. 6. The scenes of hordes of Trump supporters terrorizing the U.S. Capitol shocked people from around the world.
“I was horrified at what I saw,” said Matsukawa. “It was an attack on our democracy.” The riots at the U.S. Capitol was another failed effort by the Trump administration and its supporters to overturn the November election results, this time, through terroristic means.
Matsukawa said, “January 20th can’t come soon enough.”
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.