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Asian-American Voters Could Play Key Role in NC Midterms

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Between 2000 and 2016, North Carolina’s Asian-American population grew by 144 percent, the fastest rate among Southern states and the second-fastest in the U.S. (Twenty20)
Between 2000 and 2016, North Carolina’s Asian-American population grew by 144 percent, the fastest rate among Southern states and the second-fastest in the U.S. (Twenty20)
 By Antionette Kerr/Dan Heyman, Public News Service - NC, Contact
November 2, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. – Asian Americans are one of North Carolina's fastest-growing demographics. At more than 89,000 registered voters, that number has doubled in the last decade, and groups are working to ensure that Asian-American voices are heard on such key issues as immigration and climate change.

Early voter turnout is climbing, according to a report from the Institute for Southern Studies and N.C. Asian Americans Together.

Language barriers and a lack of voter contact by political parties have kept these potential voters away from the polls in the past, says Chavi Koneru – executive director of NCAAT – but grassroots organizations have been working for change.

"Fifty-six point five percent of registered Asian Americans in North Carolina voted in 2016, compared to 69 percent for all voters in the state,” says Koneru. “Seventy-one percent said they hadn't been contacted by any major political party or organization. The Asian American population has the power to really be the swing vote."

Voter-engagement efforts – including translated materials, poll parties and door-to-door canvassing – are being credited for the rising number of Asian Americans casting ballots in the past week. Early voting records indicate more than double the number of Asian Americans have voted compared to the last midterm election.

This year, NCAAT registered more than 2,000 voters in Asian-concentrated areas of the state, and says it's been a successful, unprecedented push to educate and mobilize this voting bloc.

Asian Americans live across North Carolina, but their numbers are highest in four major urban counties: Durham, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake.

Cat Le, executive director of the Southeast Asian Coalition, says door-to-door advocacy has energized the base.

"We see that talking about immigration and deportation, particularly the 287(g) program in Mecklenburg County, has been a really big part of our door-knocking and base-building efforts," says Le.

The 287(g) program expands the ability of state and federal law enforcement to make arrests, so it's a controversial sticking point for immigrant communities. More than 15,000 people have been in deportation proceedings in Mecklenburg County's 287(g) program since it began in 2006.

Collectively, immigrant-led groups in North Carolina are reaffirming a commitment to visibility, representation and voter engagement.

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