Asian-Americans aiming to make impact on Election Day

Updated: 2014-10-20 12:22

By Chang Jun(China Daily USA)

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Bay Area Asian Americans are rallying from neighborhoods to train stations in a final push before the Nov 4 general elections. Volunteers are knocking on doors, passing out candidate brochures and setting up voter registration booths, hopeful there will be a larger turnout of Asian-Americans voters this time around.

Having long been stereotyped as politically petrified, Asian Americans in general haven't gotten involved in politics and have cared little about casting ballots and having their voices heard on American issues.

However, a "fire at the doorstep" early this year served as wake-up call for Asian Americans' political enthusiasm.

On Jan 30, California Senate Constitutional Amendment No 5, or SCA-5, was passed by the state Senate with a two-thirds majority and would allow such public education institutions as the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems - and even K-12 schools - to use race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin as a consideration for admitting students or hiring employees.

Afraid that SCA-5 will promote racial and ethnic preferences in higher education admissions that will set society back to when people were judged by their skin color instead of merit, Asian Americans in California were inspired to take to the street to express their objections and form several grassroots civic organizations, such as the Silicon Valley Chinese Association (SVCA) and the United Asian Americans for Activism.

Teaming up with the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), SVCA rolled out a series of programs to advance political empowerment of the Asian Pacific Islanders through voter registration and education, community outreach and leadership development.

The Chinese are part of the immigrant story, said Tony Xu, an active member of the SVCA, adding that everyone qualified to vote should act as a concerned citizen. Chinese Americans will always be treated as second-class citizens if they limit themselves by not voting, always taking from the community instead of giving, going for quick-fortune professions instead of engaging in public service and volunteering hours to the community, he added.

At a September fundraiser for incumbent Cupertino City Council member Barry Chang, who is running for re-election, former US Ambassador to China Gary Locke said Chinese and Asians have helped build and defend this country.

Asian-Americans aiming to make impact on Election Day

"Therefore, we have a responsibility, we actually have a right, a duty to be at the table and make the laws that affect all of us," said Locke.

According to the new edition of the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac, more than 4,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently hold public office in some 40 US states and territories.

In California alone, Asian Americans have served as five federal representatives, 15 state representatives, more than 90 council members and more than 100 judges.

However, the number of Asian-American politicians from California at the national and state level is minimal compared with the heavy concentration of Asian Americans on the West Coast. Asian Americans will account for 18 percent of California's population and comprise about 12 percent of registered voters by 2025, according to a survey by the California League of Conservation Voters this year.

Nationally, Asian Americans make up 5.6 percent of the total American population, with Chinese (3.79 million) being the largestgroup,followed by the Filipinos (3.41 million) and Indians (3.18 million).

More than a dozen Chinese Americans have stepped forward to run for public office in California this year. Peter Kuo is a candidate for California's 10th senate district; Kansen Chu is running for California Assembly and is very likely to make himself one of the strongest Chinese Americans in State legislature in November; David Chiu is running for San Francisco's 17th district; two-term State Controller John Chiang is standing for the California State Treasurer post; and Yan Zhao is aiming for the Saratoga City Council.

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(China Daily USA 10/20/2014 page2)