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Report: Candidates Should Increase Voter Outreach to Asians in NC

Cat Bao Le, left, is pictured with another member of the Southeast Asian Coalition as they conducted outreach at the Annual Dragon Boat Festival in Charlotte. (Le)
Cat Bao Le, left, is pictured with another member of the Southeast Asian Coalition as they conducted outreach at the Annual Dragon Boat Festival in Charlotte. (Le)
March 15, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - While there's much talk among candidates and pundits about pursuing the black, Latino and female vote in North Carolina's primary today, there's little discussion about the Asian-American population. New data from the Institute for Southern Studies indicates it's a demographic to which candidates should pay attention.

According to the new research, Asian-Americans increased by 85 percent from 2000 to 2010, making them the fastest-growing racial-ethnic group within the state.

Cat Bao Le, executive director of the Southeast Asian Coalition, said campaigns and other organizations should remember to include the population in their "get out the vote" efforts.

"Asian-American voters are contacted a lot less than other populations when it comes to encouraging people to come out to the polls," she said, "and we know that in the South, that percentage is even higher; it's at 80 percent."

According to the report, Asian-Americans have relatively high citizenship rates, standing at about 70 percent. At the same time, slightly more than half actually are registered to vote, compared with a rate of 70 percent of all eligible voters in the state.

With potentially 100,000 or more votes at stake, the report indicated that Asian-American voters could impact the election outcome in the state. The 2012 presidential election was decided by less than 100,000 votes. Le said she and other members of her community want candidates to address issues surrounding education and language-barrier issues in addition to immigration.

"What I see every day is issues of immigration are super important," she said. "Our community, especially refugee communities, are often waiting to be reunited with family, and there's a pretty long backlog, in terms of petitioning for family members."

Allie Yee, lead researcher for the Institute for Southern Studies, said the growing Asian-American community should no longer be overlooked by candidates in this primary or the upcoming November election.

"This is a community that we need to focus on," she said, "and we need to reach out to them to engage them to have a greater voice, to have a fuller voice in North Carolina's primaries, and going into November and the general election."

Nationwide, according to the report, North Carolina has the third fastest-growing Asian-American population, with Nevada and Arizona leading the list, respectively.

The full report is online at ncasian.org.

Stephanie Carson/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NC