Asian Americans: The Forgotten Voters

Asian voter voting in polling place
Asian voter voting in polling place

This election cycle has quickly become one for the record books. There have been heated primary contests, unexpected election results, and extremely close polls. When races are that close and the presidency is at stake, every vote counts. Why, then, are certain demographics being overlooked or ignored?

I have lived in Washington, DC for almost 70 years. I came to this country from China in 1949 as a high school student. At the time, I knew very little about America -- only what I had seen in Hollywood movies. While studying in the U.S., I eventually became more familiar with American history and culture and gained respect for America's government system. I am an active participant in politics and have been an informed and consistent voter since my first election as a U.S. citizen.

Despite my personal engagement in U.S. politics, I have often felt left out or pushed aside. I know this is a sentiment shared by many of my fellow Asian Americans. While many demographics are courted for their votes -- women, college students, other larger minorities -- the Asian American demographic is notably absent in these discussions and strategies. Candidates hold targeted town halls and rallies telling specific audiences what they can do for them if elected. Where are the ones aimed at Asian Americans?

In this heated and heavily-charged election cycle, the feelings of marginalization have only grown. Asian Americans are being more than just ignored, they're being actively belittled and devalued. Prominent candidates have made many disparaging comments about immigrants. This is a country of immigrants. I have been an American for longer than our current president has been alive, and yet I am still looked at as a foreigner by many. The anger and the prejudice displayed in the recent debates have only left me disheartened.

There are over 18 million Asian Americans in the U.S., accounting for nearly 6 percent of the population. While still a relatively small portion, the Asian American voter should not be overlooked. Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. In some key locations, their vote can make a huge difference. Take the upcoming Democratic primary race in New York. All reports indicate that this is going to be a tight race between Clinton and Sanders, with every vote carrying huge impact. Why is neither candidate working to court the upwards of 1 million Asian Americans living in New York?

The Asian American voter needs to be brought out of the shadows. Candidates should work to engage Asian American populations. At the very least, they should consider the Asian American electorate when framing their campaign strategy and take steps not to alienate this population. The American media should also reach out to Asian American pundits, scholars, and average voters to hear their views on the candidates and issues. And, finally, Asian Americans should join together to take a more active role in the political process. If the candidates are not speaking to us, we should speak to them.

In the American democracy, every person has one vote and every vote holds the same weight. We should remember this and get out there and vote. The more Asian Americans participate, the more politicians will listen.