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US Politicians Target Asian American Voters


President Barack Obama meets with Asian American and Pacific Islander business and faith leaders to discuss immigration reform, May 2, 2014, at the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama meets with Asian American and Pacific Islander business and faith leaders to discuss immigration reform, May 2, 2014, at the White House in Washington.

Asians are the fastest-growing minority in the United States. Political scientists say Asian Americans are starting to have an influence on U.S. politics. There now are more Asian Americans in Congress than ever before.

In many areas, political candidates are reaching out to Asian Americans in an effort to get their support in the elections next month.

Political campaigns are urging people across the United States to vote in the November 4th elections. In the Los Angeles area, campaign volunteers are contacting likely voters, including many Asian Americans. Tanzila Ahmed is a voting expert. She says it is overly simplistic to think of Asian Americans as a single group.

“One of the biggest issues, people think Asians are this big monolithic group and we’re not. We’re so different.”

But she notes that something has changed this election season.

“I think now, for the first time, we see politicians actually going (saying), ‘Wait a second, who are these people? How can we get them to be a part of our campaign, get them to be a part of our party?’”

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) joins U.S. Post Office employees during a protest, April 24, 2014, in downtown Los Angeles.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) joins U.S. Post Office employees during a protest, April 24, 2014, in downtown Los Angeles.

That is because Asian American voters are having an influence on election results nationwide. California Congresswoman Judy Chu heads the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“In certain states, they (Asians) are providing a margin of victory. For instance, in Nevada and in Virginia, they are a growing percentage that can influence the outcome of really close elections.”

Ms. Chu belongs to the Democratic Party. She is seeking re-election in an area where close to 40 percent of the voters identify themselves as Asian or Pacific Islander. She says language is one of the biggest barriers for politicians when reaching out to these voters.

“There are many for whom English is not the first language. And that means that if you’re going to do voting materials, they really should be translated into the various languages.”

And to reach out to voters through different ethnic media. David Artan from Indonesia says he gets most of his news from Indonesian-language media.

“Usually, yeah, from like a magazine, like you know, Indonesian community magazine.”

Asian Americans traditionally vote more for Democrats than Republicans. But voter Allison Watanabe refuses to support someone just because the candidate is Asian.

“Not if they did not share my values.”

Morris Levy teaches political science at the University of Southern California. He says many Asian Americans do not identify with any party.

“So even among voters who were voting Democrat in the last few elections, many are reluctant to say ‘I identify myself as a Democrat.’”

The two main parties are seeking to capture the support of Asian Americans. Shawn Steel is with the Republican National Committee.

“The most successful group of immigrants to have ever assimilated in America, the quickest and the most effective. It’s perfect material for the changing Republican Party, not merely to have them vote but to have them lead the Republican Party.”

His wife, Michelle, is a candidate in Orange County, California. She is one of several Republican Asian Americans who are candidates in state and local election races.

“The Republican National Committee is watching Orange County because four Asian American women are running. And that’s going to change actually the face of the Republican Party.”

Morris Levy says the number of undecided voters will likely grow.

“You still have large-scale immigration, so as you continue to kind of fuel this pool of new potential voters and new residents who are just beginning to navigate the U.S. political system, you are likely, if anything, to increase the percentage that’s uncommitted in the short run.”

He says capturing their vote means both parties need to reach out to the different Asian communities, and have Asian American candidates on the ballot.

I’m Bob Doughty.

This report was based on a story from reporter Elizabeth Lee in Los Angeles. George Grow wrote it for Learning English. Jeri Watson was the editor.

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Words in this Story

influence – n. an effect on someone or something; v. to have an effect on someone or something; to cause change

candidates n. people who seek or are nominated for an office or an honor

campaign n. a competition by opposing political candidates seeking support from voters

season n. a period during the year when something usually happens

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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