Asian American voters could play crucial role in battleground states
TORONTO -- Just one day before Americans are set to make an historic decision on election night, an often overlooked segment of the electorate could play a crucial role in the results.
A recent report from the National Education Association showed that while Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) represent just four per cent of the vote, they could be the tie break in as many as 10 of the most contested states, including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
This time around, it appears AAPI voters are energized, as an estimated 2.5 million AAPI voters have already cast their ballot through mail-in ballots or early voting.
"I think historically Asian Americans don't really like to be involved in politics, maybe because of the way their home countries’ governments are,” Cecilia Zhou, a volunteer in Philadelphia, Pa., told CTV News. “I think that's changing a lot now."
Asian American voters represent 11 million voters across the country, and are considered the fastest-growing sector of the American electorate.
The Republican and Democratic campaigns have taken drastically different approach toward this segment of the vote.
For one, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris is the first South Asian American and African American woman to be on a major party ticket.
Additionally, Democrats have made a concerted effort to target AAPI with campaign materials translated into 20 Asian languages.
On Monday, the party launched a campaign video targeted at AAPI voters to get them to the polls, featuring several celebrities including Mindy Kaling and Margaret Cho.
Meanwhile, the U.S. President Donald Trump has targeted China for COVID-19, calling the virus the “China virus,” the “Wuhan flu” and “Kung flu” in the past.
For some AAPI voters, this rhetoric has had real-life consequences. More than 2,500 “incidents of discrimination” against the AAPI community, according to an August report from “Stop AAPI Hate,” a coalition of aimed at addressing anti-Asian discrimination.
"I still felt, I don't know, in danger when I walked outside,” Zhou said. “I had never felt like that before.”
Last week, the National Committee of Asian American Republicans last week urged voters to “follow your conscience” and vote for Biden.
“We don't need a smart-pants president who knows everything including the best medicine curing COVID-19, who empowers only his base to run over political opposition,” the Asian GOP wrote in a statement. “We need a president with empathy, integrity, and broadness capable of bringing all sides to the table to find common ground, and work together overcoming serious challenges ahead.”
Still, social issues arising from the pandemic are not the only issues AAPI voters are considering when they cast their ballots.
“Voters want healthcare for everybody, regardless of immigration status,” said Mohan Seshadri, political director of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance. “We want clean air and clean water. We want good schools and good paying jobs with living wages."
With files from CTV News reporter Abby Kuhathasan