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Asian-Americans hope for large turnout

Published: Sunday, November 2, 2008

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 16:02

With the election drawing near, Asian American organizations are leading efforts to get their electorally quiet group out to the polls.

"We hope to increase political participation and give Asian Americans a voice in our society today," said Ricky Ly, a civil engineering major and co-chair of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Voter Registration Drive committee.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian Americans currently account for about five percent of the United States' population. Yet, Asian and Pacific Islander youths have the lowest voter registration rates out of any minority group, according to the APIA Vote Web site.

The Census Bureau's 2004 survey found that 44.1 percent of Asian American citizens voted, the lowest of the demographics surveyed. However, of those registered to vote 85.2 percent of Asian Americans did vote.

The campaign, titled Project 5%, was launched by the APIA Youth Vote in partnership with the National Asian Pacific American Panhellenic Association.

"Nationally, we hoped to register 10,000 Asian Americans for this election cycle and also increase awareness that only one in three eligible Asian Americans vote," Ly said.

As part of the voter outreach program, volunteer groups set up tables at various campus events, downtown Asian grocery markets and restaurants, cultural schools and community churches. The groups also targeted meetings of Asian clubs and organizations on campus.

Members of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., the Asian Pacific American Coalition and the Asian American Heritage Council of Central Florida, held the drives.

"Together, along with other Asian organizations on campus, we have held events such as APIA Voter Registration Training," forensic science major and DPL member Savitre Geeratisoontorn said.

She said that by learning the proper way to register, the sorority could effectively educate others on the correct procedures.

"First and foremost, students should get themselves registered and then educated on history of Asian Americans in the political scene," said William Xu, team leader for Project 5%. Xu is responsible for the project's collegiate efforts nationwide.

"Our registration and political awareness efforts depend on individual youths to spread the word, peer to peer," Xu said.

Once the program receives data from corresponding campuses and regions, the total number of new voters will be tallied. Xu hopes that once the results are tallied, the project will reach its "ambitious goal" of 10,000 new registrations.

According to Ly, factors like language, cultural or citizenship barriers contribute to the lack of voting for older Asian Americans. Many Asian American parents work long shifts that could prevent them from going to the polls.

"With younger Asian Americans, there is no language barrier, but they do face apathy and lack of knowledge of the issues," Ly said.

"I think that this year's election is the most important time for all of us to vote especially because our economy is not headed in a good direction right now," molecular biology and microbiology major and officer for the APAC at UCF Krystle Nguyen said.

"There is no reason why minorities have to have the minority of votes come election day, we can make our issues and opinions heard, so why not start young?" Xu said.

An amendment specifically regarding Asian Americans will be included on the November ballot. Amendment 1 proposes to delete provisions to the discriminatory Florida Alien Land Law of 1926. The law, which allowed the Legislature to control the property rights of "aliens ineligible for citizenship," was enacted out of fear that Asian immigrants would compete with Americans for land and lower wages.

Florida remains the last state to still include an alien land law in its state constitution. Voters will have a chance to repeal this law on the November ballot.?

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