San Gabriel Valley: A battleground for Latino and Asian votes

Election Day is Tuesday, and it will be a moment of truth for extensive efforts to get out the vote in the San Gabriel Valley. 

Asians and Latinos are two groups that are traditionally underrepresented at the polls. For that reason, various national and local organizations, including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), have targeted the Alhambra area, working with community colleges and even YouTube celebrities to educate and encourage eligible minority voters to speak out and have their voices be heard.

Photo from NALEO Facebook page

“One of the things that we are constantly seeing are people who are unaware of basic voter information, how to register to vote, where to get forms,” said Clayton Rosa, campaign and strategies program manager of the NALEO Educational Fund.

The Pew Research Center found that a record 23.7 million Latino citizens are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, 4 million more than in 2008. But according to the report, only 50 percent of eligible Latinos cast a ballot in the last election, compared to 66 percent of whites.

NALEO has been working to mobilize the Latino population in the San Gabriel Valley, participating in National Voter Registration Day, hosting voter registration drives, and coordinating phone banks. NALEO also launched Ya Es Hora¡ Ve Y Vota!” (“It’s Time! Go and Vote!”), a campaign that focuses on providing bilingual resources such as a national hotline and website with information on the electoral process, voter registration, ID requirements, and finding your polling place.

NALEO tries to increase voter registration

The organization has also focused on young voters, traveling to community colleges like Los Angeles City College and Rio Hondo Community College to involve Latino youth in the election. “We’re seeing the community colleges are overlooked in level of engagement,” Rosa said. “We’re working with student leaders and representatives to encourage field registration.”

"Your Vote Matters! 2012" posters

APALC has done similar outreach, targeting the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. The organization launched the “Your Vote Matters! 2012” campaign to increase voter mobilization, partnering with youth groups and non-profits as well as providing resources like phone banks, voter hotlines, and mailers written bilingually in English and other languages like Chinese, Korean, and Thai. APALC also released an online voter toolkit that lists information on online voter registration in different languages as well as volunteer opportunities.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the API community is the fastest growing minority group in the nation at nearly 18 million. “Yet Asian Americans remain one of the most politically underorganized, underengaged segments, with only 55% of them registered to vote — the lowest among all races,” the Times reports.

APALC staff with The Fung Brothers | Photo from APALC Facebook page

Social media was also a significant part of APALC’s campaign and even involved viral YouTube sensation The Fung Brothers, an Asian American duo that showcase Asian American culture in the San Gabriel Valley with a mix of comedic and musical entertainment. The Fung Brothers produced a video sponsored by APALC called "Does Your Asian Mom Vote?", which urges the API communities to vote in the upcoming election. In its first week, the video received 10,000 views.

Engaging a minority group, Andrew Fung of The Fung Brothers told the Los Angeles Times, sometimes "requires creating a culture around it — making the idea cool, making it relevant. A lot of kids who vote saw their parents vote. And if we see more Asian immigrant parents vote, we'll make an impact."

Mike Eng speaks at the  at APALC's “Your Vote Matters! 2012” outreach event

Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) said Asian Americans can be particularly significant in this election because so many of them are swing voters. “One out of every three Asian American voters is undecided about the upcoming election,” Eng said. “We know that Asian Americans don’t affiliate with either party and so we have efforts to encourage voter or mobilization [to] address that.”

For both NALEO and APALC, the hope is that their efforts go beyond the election and encourage voters to stay engaged in the political process. “We continue to emphasize that it’s not just about participation in one election, but being able to increase overall participation to keep those who [we] elect accountable,” Rosa said. “For us, it’s the importance of not only voting on Election Day on November 6, but the importance of being civically engaged.”

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