Tackling Voter Apathy
Asian Americans consistently have the lowest percentage voter turnout of any group in Georgia. It’s disheartening to see so many Asian Americans choosing not to vote considering the long and hard struggle that established voting as a fundamental right. Originally, voting in America was almost exclusively vested in white, land-owning males. Women, freed blacks and the poor had to fight to establish their right to vote.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the last major effort to combat discrimination and disenfranchisement of certain voters, including citizens that are Limited English proficient.
So given how precious our right to vote is, why the apathy? Here are the top 4 reasons for voter apathy.
Reason #1: If I register to vote, I may be selected for jury duty. This is true. However, you may also be selected for jury duty because you have a Georgia driver license, a public library card, or are listed as a member of your homeowners association or community church. As of 2000, the Georgia Jury Commissioners are authorized to use any list of county residents they deem appropriate as long as the resulting juror lists fairly represent the county population. So, you can’t avoid jury duty by not voting.
Reason #2: I can’t take off work and/or feel uncomfortable going to the polls to vote. For many who can’t take off work, are Limited English proficient, physically disabled or elderly, going to the poll site on Election Day is challenging. Thankfully, you can vote from the comfort of your home through absentee balloting! Despite what you may have heard, anyone can vote this way and you don’t need a special reason to vote by absentee ballot. Please make the request early enough so you can mail your completed ballot back by November 6, 2012 (the Presidential Elections). If you have any questions, contact us at 404.585.8446 and we’d be happy to assist you.
Reason #3: I don’t know the issues or the candidates. Don’t know the issues? That’s why we’re here! AALAC provides trusted, nonpartisan research and information on the legal issues we believe are most important to Asians and other immigrants. Please visit our policy page to read up on a variety of legal issues facing us in Georgia: http://aalegal.org/campaigns/. We will also be having a Gwinnett County Candidate Forum in October (date and location coming soon!), which will be a time you can hear what some of the candidates have to say directly. As a voter in a candidate’s district, you should feel free to visit their website, email or call them and ask the questions you want answered! Finally, be on the look-out in your local ethnic newspapers for candidate answers to key questions which will be translated in-language. AALAC understands there are topics of particular importance to the Asian American community, and that many of our members are Limited English Proficient. AALAC plans on sending questions to select candidates, and have the candidates’ answers translated and published in our major Asian newspapers. Stay tuned!
And you want to know who your legislators are? Go to Project Vote Smart (http://votesmart.org/), and where it says “Search” type in your home address and then click Search. It should then take you to a page that will list all the races you can vote for and your candidates.
Reason #4: My one vote doesn’t count and won’t change anything. Wrong! Let me share a story I heard recently from Pedro Marin, a long standing member of Georgia’s House of Representatives. Pedro told me that in 2010 he won the primaries by only 31 votes - imagine if those 31 people had decided their vote made no difference. In a country where 20% of our population owns 85% of all our country’s wealth, it’s an incredible testament to the principles of equality and democracy that 1 citizen still equals 1 vote. So no matter who you are, how much you make or how long you’ve lived here, you have an equal say in who will represent us. Don’t forget this and don’t forget to vote this November 6th. Let’s have our voices heard!