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Asian Americans in L.A. County voted in record numbers in 2008, supported Obama

October 27, 2009 | 10:26 am
Asian Americans in Los Angeles County turned out in record numbers for the 2008 general election thanks to a mobilization campaign targeting this fast-growing but underrepresented community, according to a new survey released today.

Turnout for Asian American voters in Los Angeles County soared 39%, up from about 211,000 in 2000 to 293,000 in last year’s presidential election, according to the survey by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

Among the key findings of the report, 63% of Asian American voters supported Barack Obama for president and 90% expressed support for universal healthcare.

"What is significant about this report is that it shows more Asian Americans have voted than ever before in the history of Los Angeles County, it tells us that Asian Americans have arrived as a political force," said Dan Ichinose, director of the center's Demographic Research Project. "We can become even more powerful if the method we used could be adopted on a broader scale."

Low voter turnout is not a problem unique to the Asian community. Though minorities make up more than half of the population in Los Angeles County, only 3 out of 10 likely voters tend to be people of color, said Eugene Lee, Voting Rights Project Director for the center.

Asians face the additional challenges of language barriers and inadequate access to information on how to vote and what issues to support.

"They are caught in a catch-22 situation," Lee said. "Political campaigns do not target Asian Americans or provide personal contacts that are useful in increasing the turnout rate among Asian Americans. "  The cycle repeats because without a high turnout from the community the politicians don't tend to see a reason to target them.
Asian Americans make up 5% of the nation's population. Out of the 15.5 million Asian Americans living in the country, nearly 1.4 million live in Los Angeles County, more than in any other county in America.

Despite the impressive growth in this election cycle, the Asian vote has yet to reach its full potential.

Whereas 78% of all registered voters in the country cast their ballots, only 71% of Asian American registered voters did the same.  The study says more outreach like the get out the vote drives in Los Angeles County is needed to close the gap between the Asian American and general electorates.

"It seems clear Asian Americans have the potential to shape and change the political landscape," said Lee. "Elected officials need to consider the views of the Asian Americans and include them in their campaign plans."

-Ching-Ching Ni

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