Last Saturday, over 30 dedicated Asian Pacific American (APA) activists from a variety of local APA organizations joined the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, D.C. Chapter (APALA-DC) in Annandale, Va. to launch the national APALA “Every Vote Counts” campaign. Members of APALA-DC, Asian American Action Group (AAAG), Korean Americans for Obama (KAFO), KAYA (formerly Filipino Americans for Obama), Vietnamese Americans for Obama (VAFO), Voice of Vietnamese Americans (VVA) and others arrived at the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO bright and early to learn about the importance of civic engagement within the APA community and to train in the basics of voter registration.
First up, Del. Mark Keam of the Virginia House of Delegates gave volunteers a crash course in the Virginia political scene over the past decade with a focus on the impact APA communities have made when they were energized and mobilized to vote.
Said Keam, “As the first Asian-born immigrant elected to the Virginia General Assembly, I understand the importance of making sure that all eligible Virginians register and vote. With so many decisions being made in this tight fiscal climate, I want to make sure that Virginians, including APAs, have a voice in these decisions – from providing more ESL teachers in our increasingly diverse schools to promoting accessibility to health care.”
With the rise of extreme political groups, post-Obama political progress in Virginia (and across the country) has taken a sharp turn backward with laws to suppress the rights of voters, women, workers and communities of color taking precedence over the real issues affecting our communities–education, comprehensive immigration reform, job creation and more.
David Carpio, AFL-CIO National Training Coordinator and APALA National Executive Board Member gave a straightforward approach to reversing this trend–“expand the electorate” by getting “under-represented groups active in the political process–youth, communities of color, and low income communities.”
APALA Associate Director Caroline Fan stressed the historic importance of the “Every Vote Counts” effort to reach out to eligible APA voters in the U.S. and increase voter registration “so that our communities are represented at the polls. Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest growing racial minority, and it’s vital that we register to vote.”
Joe Montano, former Northeast Political Director for the Democratic National Committee (and the “Forrest Gump of Virginia Politics”), closed the speakers’ portion of the program by detailing the concrete effects the volunteers’ voter registration and mobilization efforts would have on the surrounding community.
“Being a native of Virginia, the presentations actually helped to supplement my knowledge of politics in my own home state”, said Ken Pham of Voice of Vietnamese Americans. “I look forward to utilizing this information when I organize my own community to Get Out the Vote this year.”
After a thorough training on voter registration and door-to-door canvassing from Tori Miyagi, former Political Consultant for APALA, and Jenny Ho, APALA-DC Secretary Treasurer, groups of volunteers prepped for the afternoon by role-playing voter registration scripts prepared by the chapter and the AFL-CIO.
Fueled by delicious Korean food from a local restaurant, the groups headed out into the surrounding neighborhoods. At the end of the day, they successfully knocked on 188 doors in less than 3 hours.
“Bringing these groups together to train and register voters was an amazing experience”, said Katrina Dizon, APALA-DC President. “Even the handful of people we registered or even made aware of their right to vote, will surely make a positive impact on this election year.”
APALA-DC plans to continue their Every Vote Counts Campaign by doing a series of voter registration drives in the Northern Virginia area, leading up to Get Out the Vote efforts closer to the elections.
“This was a great way to train our members and allies in preparation for GOTV in the next few months. Virginia has not seen the last of us!”, said Dizon.