Get out and Vote!
When I hear the pundits say how important the youth vote is ‘in this year’s election’ I chuckle and wonder what my parents must think – when the youth vote was important in their election. When hasn’t the youth vote been important?
Young people have mobilized around important issues for generations – like civil rights, the Vietnam War, women’s issues, gay rights, and the environment. Today, as the globe gets smaller, and technology allows immediate and broad access to information, young people rally around issues around the world. Today’s youth are concerned about girls in Tehran, poverty, drug use, bullying, the economy.
The faces of our young people are changing as well. Asian Americans and African Americans in Minnesota account for about 5% each of the state’s total population. In the last 10 years, the Asian community grew by fifty-two percent, making it one of the fastest growing communities in the state, and, according to the 2010 Census, youth and young adults (ages 0-34 years old) make up over sixty-six percent of Minnesota’s total Asian American population.
Only 24% of Minnesota’s Asian American population between the ages of 18 and 24 are registered to vote, which is why the Asian & Pacific Islanders American Vote (APIA Vote) was launched. Armed with a grant from the Florida-based Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and a supporting grant from Youthprise, APIA Vote is a nonpartisan, Asian American, youth-focused, civic and political engagement project in Minnesota. APIA Vote is partnering with three other Youthprise grantees – Asian Media Access, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and ThreeSixty Journalism – to organize voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization efforts in the Asian American communities in Minnesota.
When you think of election-year voter registration efforts, you probably think of traditional tactics like phone banks and door knocking. But the APIA Vote project is experimenting with innovative tactics and technologies. Using Facebook, Twitter, texting, spoken word, flash mobs, youth-led public forums, short films and public service announcements on YouTube, APIA Vote is hoping to find out which tactics are the most effective in mobilizing young people to political action. Voting is sure to become ‘cool’ again.
Beyond voter registration efforts, the project has the capacity to transform the civic knowledge, political consciousness, self-efficacy, and leadership of the many young leaders from the organizing nonprofits. It is predicted that, by as soon as 2021, the country’s under-18 population is expected to be majority people of color. These young, Asian American Minnesotans will be well-prepared to lead, encourage, and empower their peers and their elders to become a part of the American tradition of the democratic process.
November 6 is Election Day. Vote. And, if you are not yet old enough to vote, encourage your older friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers to vote. Post a Facebook reminder. Text, Tweet and phone them. And email me, to let me know if the lines were long at your polling location. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they are.
Director of Public Policy and Communications
* Voting since 1982 (has it been that long?)