Commentary

Fast-growing numbers show that Asian Americans will be a key swing vote in NC

The good people at North Carolina Asian Americans Together and a collection of good government groups have released a new report on the growing role that Asian Americans will play in the election here in North Carolina. Here’s the release that accompanied it:

New report highlights how Asian Americans, the fastest growing racial demographic in the political battleground of North Carolina, could hold the key to victory in 2016.

As the election season enters its final weeks, there’s a key demographic that candidates and parties in North Carolina should be paying attention to: Asian Americans. Asian Americans are the fastest?growing racial demographic in the country and in North Carolina. As a voting bloc that is largely independent, they are a key swing vote that could decide tight races in North Carolina in 2016, including contests for president, U.S. Senate and governor.

Those are among the highlights of a new report, “A Growing Voice: Asian American Voters in North Carolina,” released by a group of Asian American and civic organizations. The report finds the number of registered Asian American voters in North Carolina has grown 130 percent between 2006 and 2014, and that this voting bloc could provide the margin of victory in competitive statewide races and in some legislative districts.

“Asian Americans are a largely untapped voting base in North Carolina,” said Allie Yee, author of the report and associate director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a nonprofit research center in Durham, North Carolina. “As this community grows, it will play an increasingly important role in determining the future of our state and country.”

The report looks at several unique characteristics of Asian American voters in North Carolina:

  • In a state where major elections have been decided by just tens of thousands of votes, eligible Asian American voters now number 103,000.
  • Asian American registered voters have largely opted out of the partisan divide, with 51 percent of them unaffiliated with any political party.
  • Asian American voters are concentrated in the state’s major metro areas, where they could play a key role in close races.
  • The Asian American voting bloc is extremely diverse, with over 20 nationalities and ethnicities and over 40 languages represented.
  • A range of issues concern Asian American voters from jobs, education and health care to immigration, racism and police accountability.
  • HB 589, North Carolina’s restrictive 2013 voting law, could have disproportionately affected Asian American voters around measures like same?day voter registration and voter ID if enforcement of the law hadn’t been blocked by a court for the 2016 general election.

The report also draws attention to the state’s significant Southeast Asian refugee communities. North Carolina is home to one of the country’s largest populations of Montagnards, an ethnic minority group from the mountains of Vietnam, and Hmong, another ethnic minority from Southeast Asia.

“It’s important for people to realize that these groups are part of the Asian American community and have unique stories, challenges and voices in North Carolina,” said Cat Bao Le, executive director of the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC) in Charlotte and a contributor to the report.

As the clout of Asian American voters has grown, a handful of groups has emerged that focus on reaching out to Asian American communities in the state, including the Charlotte?based SEAC and North Carolina Asian Americans Together, which formed this year. Both groups are organizing statewide phone banking and get?out-the?vote efforts as North Carolina’s early voting period begins on October 20.

“We need to build this capacity now and mobilize the community in 2016,” said Le. “What we do today will lay the groundwork for Asian Americans to have a greater say in North Carolina and the decisions that affect our lives and our communities.”

To read the full report, visit www.ncasian.org.

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