Asian Americans: Untapped voter population

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Keynote speaker and Internet activist Phil Yu shares with the audience how he got involved with activism.

Keynote speaker and Internet activist Phil Yu shares with the audience how he got involved with activism.

By Natasha Blakely
MI First Election

The Asian American and Pacific Islander voter turnout is one of the lowest within the voter demographic. Part of the reason for this is many political candidates are ignoring that section of the population.

According to Theresa Tran, executive director of the Michigan branch of APIAVote, the political dismissal of the U.S.’s Asian population is a cycle. “Asian Americans don’t vote because people don’t talk to them, but people don’t talk to them because Asian Americans don’t vote,” she said.

APIAVote is a nonpartisan organization committed to advocating for justice and education for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. With a focus on the vulnerable Asian American population with limited English proficiency and low income, APIAVote aims to get Asian Americans more involved in the community and provide them access to the rights they deserve.

Executive Director of APIAVote-Michigan Teresa Tran gives a class of students a lecture on the Asian American voting population and APIAVote's efforts to combat obstacles.

Executive Director of APIAVote-Michigan Teresa Tran gives a class of students a lecture on the Asian American voting population and APIAVote’s efforts to combat obstacles.

There are other obstacles that Asian Americans face when it comes to voting. For first-generation immigrants in particular, there is often a lack of explanatory material in a language they can understand. For those who make it to the polls, misspelled names and clerical errors that omit names from the rolls can mean people are denied their right to vote. This is surprising when Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial demographic in Michigan.

APIAVote is also connecting with Asian youths. Saturday, Feb. 27, MSU’s Asian Pacific American Studies Program teamed up with the Office of Cultural & Academic Transitions and APIAVote to organize a “Activism, Politics, and Social Media Summit”.

The keynote speaker was activist blogger Phil Yu, who runs the Angry Asian Man blog. Other guests included APIAVote-Michigan and Michigan State House Representatives Stephanie Chang and Sam Singh. Yu’s speech and workshop focused on how he got started in activism and how to start an online movement.

One of the attendees, MSU graduate student John Tran, said, “I was really interested in meeting Phil Yu and learning more about how he approaches activism on the internet and how he has laid the foundation for these progressive messages for Asian Americans.”

APIAVote even had a station set up for people to register on the spot.

Another attendee, comparative cultures and politics sophomore Quyen Hoang said, “I’m just very passionate about Asian American identity. I’m in the Asian Pacific American Studies class, and it’s a way to get out and be participating in the community and networking and having dialogue with people of similar interests.”

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